our prison programmes
We work in prisons across the UK to educate, test and treat people at risk of hepatitis C (HCV). Find out more about our programmes of work below.
Prison Peer2Peer Project
Our Prison Peer2Peer (P2P) Project has three key objectives:
- To raise awareness, reduce stigma and provide support around hepatitis C in prisons
- To deliver blood-borne virus (BBV) awareness training to prison, healthcare and substance use staff
- To provide literature including posters and information booklets across the prison estate
Meeting the team from The Hepatitis C Trust has given me hope that there is a better life waiting for me when I get out.
— Volunteer Peer Educator
How it works
The project activities are overseen and delivered by a Prison Peer Coordinator and Prison Peer Educators employed by The Hepatitis C Trust. The Prison Peer Educators are all people with lived experience of HCV and/or injecting drug use and time spent within the criminal justice system.
The team deliver BBV training to prison staff, prisoners in positions of influence and people engaging with substance use services. During the sessions, individuals have the opportunity to put themselves forward to become Volunteer Peer Educators.
To become a Volunteer Peer Educator, you must have lived experience of hepatitis C and its treatments, or experience of activities that may have led to a hepatitis C transmission. For example, sharing equipment used to take drugs or receiving a tattoo in prison.
With training, Volunteer Peer Educators deliver their own P2P workshops independently. The training empowers Volunteer Peer Educators with the knowledge they need to answer any questions about hepatitis C from their peers.
P2P workshops are delivered by the Volunteer Peer Educator primarily to people accessing drug or psychosocial support.
The workshop format is a one-hour group session that starts with a 20-minute talk from the Volunteer Peer Educator who uses their personal experiences to draw on key messages around hepatitis C.
The aim of the workshop is to clear up many of the myths about hepatitis C, encourage testing and provide up-to-date information on treatment. This is followed by a Q&A session with attendees completing a simple and anonymous questionnaire to assess whether the key messages have been understood.
Our team provide support to the trained Volunteer Peer Educators through one-to-one or group meetings. We provide accredited training and qualifications and, where possible, payments are made to anyone that volunteers with us.
All Volunteer Peer Educators leaving prison receive a letter of support from our team, and are linked into our community peer project.
High Intensity Test & Treat programme
The High Intensity Test & Treat (HITT) programme aims to ensure every prisoner in every prison in England receives a hepatitis C test. This is in addition to any reception testing being carried out.
How it works
Together with our partners, we arrange mass testing events at prisons, offering all prisoners the opportunity to be tested for hepatitis C and, where available, other blood-borne viruses.
We aim to test at least 95% of the prison population on our visit. Each prison must have the correct reception testing procedures for BBVs in place before a HITT to ensure all new arrivals are tested.
If someone is found to be positive, they are fast-tracked onto treatment. In most cases, treatment can begin within 2 to 5 days.
Once each prison has completed a HITT, the prison is on track to work towards micro-elimination.
To reach micro-elimination, the prison must prove that:
- At least 95% of the prison population has been tested for hepatitis C in the last 12 months
- At least 90% of people who tested positive have started treated in the last 12 months
- A process is in place for quarterly reviews of testing and treatment uptake, reception testing and direct outreach
In Spring 2023, 18 prison sites had reached micro-elimination.
Women’s Criminal Justice Programme
Women in prison are more than twice as likely to have hepatitis C as men in prison.
The Women’s Criminal Justice Programme was launched in January 2018. Working in partnership with the prison health and substance use teams, the programme raises awareness around hepatitis C in women’s prisons. This reduces the risk of transmission, changes the conversation and increases the number of people getting tested and treated.
How it works
Our team work with women in custody settings across the 12 female prison establishments in England. Here they conduct Peer2Peer support as well as working alongside our partners during HITT events.
During Peer2Peer support sessions, women are reached through education and conversation. This allows them to feel safe and supported enough to accept a test, followed by simple pathways to treatment.
We also have a Women’s Community Criminal Justice Peer Coordinator. This help us reach women affected by the criminal justice system within local communities, specifically approved premises, probation services and the national women’s centres.
The introduction of volunteer hepatitis C peer-to-peer educator programmes in 30 key women’s centres encourages prevention, testing and treatment by providing knowledge, support and empowerment.
Find out more about our Women’s Criminal Justice Programme in the video below:
Criminal Justice probation work
We work with our partners at HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the NHS England Hepatitis C Elimination Team to engage with probation at national and regional level.
Following the 2021 roll out of a national strategy with partners within the approved premises setting, we began to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and offer testing events within these premises.
We host Q&A webinar session for staff from approved premises to help them understand more about the importance of our work. We work with every local Operational Delivery Network (ODN) in England and offer training and testing across all approved premises.
Our goal is to do the same in probation settings. Following constructive meetings with probation health leads, we now deliver online awareness sessions and Q&A webinars. We have dedicated roles for staff that work within probation in the community in partnership with local ODNs.
We are also working with NHS England and ODNs to look at work in police custody suits and forensic units. We have partnered with International Rescue Committee to understand more about how we can support our migrant population with access to testing and treatment.