Young offender institutions could help reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by running routine screening programmes, according to the Medical Research Council.
The group believes that it could help reduce the number of infections in the medium and longer term, after interviews with 40 young offenders found that, of the 24 who had been tested, 16 were tested within the young offender institution, where screening was readily available.
The Medical Research Council's Dr Katie Buston said: "Most prisoners come from the poorest and most socially excluded sections of society. Targeting male young offenders whilst they are inside may provide a rare opportunity to intervene in the lives of vulnerable young men.
"A standard opt-out screening programme would enable the diagnosis and treatment of STIs amongst this group, as well as serving as an opportunity for sexual health promotion and perhaps contact tracing."
Men in young offender institutions who have a particularly high rate of sexual partner change tend to be especially vulnerable to STIs.
"I think this is a great idea as at the moment they only get one if they request it and so still not accessible to those hard to reach groups who don't normally access services. So much money is being spent on the chlamydia programme which partly doesn't work as it often targets the low risk people rather than the high risk, hard to reach groups and this incentive would work towards evening out that balance. I work in sexual health with young people and have found that the young offenders I have met have often been in a high risk group for STIs, whereas when running a chlamydia screening programme at the university I work at, where we ran an opt-out programme, we got only a 1% positive result" - Karen Nicoll, London
"I am a college sexual health nurse working closely with the local chlamydia screening teams. We were very successful attracting young people for screening on an opt-in basis; however, we learned to our cost this year that young people attending the college did not respond positively to an opt out approach. Numbers for screening dropped dramatically. Give young people the information and then let them make an informed choice" - Glynis Collins, Huddersfield