The National Aids Trust has sent its first survey to prison healthcare officers in England and Wales to see how their policies protect inmates from HIV transmission.
It is testing anecdotal evidence that many prisoners contract HIV while incarcerated. Prison officers privately acknowledge the issue and want support, the trust says.
The survey asks healthcare officers what policies each of their prisons implement to protect against HIV transmission, such as the availability of condoms, sex education and needle exchange programmes. In 1995, the prison service's healthcare director wrote to prison doctors informing them of their duty of care to prescribe condoms to prisoners when they judge that there is a risk of HIV infection as a result of sexual behaviour.
But Delphine Valette, senior policy officer at the trust, said many prison governors do not implement the policy, while others turn a blind eye to sex acts and drug use, which are banned in prison.