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Jailed women seen to need sexual health services

Written by: Staff
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NEW YORK, May 16 (Reuters) Incarcerated women are at ''extremely high'' risk for sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies, a survey conducted in Rhode Island shows.

''Reproductive health services must be offered'' to this population, say the researchers in the American Journal of Public Health.

The majority of the growing number of women who are incarcerated are released within a few days or weeks, when they may again be exposed to STDs and become pregnant unintentionally.

In a survey of 484 incarcerated women, Dr Jennifer G Clarke and colleagues at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence found that more than two-thirds reported inconsistent birth control, 38 per cent had multiple sex partners and more than 83 per cent had a history of unplanned pregnancy.

Most of the 18- to 35-year-old women surveyed said they would likely have sexual relations with a man within six months of release from prison.

Clarke and colleagues also found that the women were significantly more likely to start using birth control when it is offered to them in the correctional facility. Thirty-nine per cent of jailed women started birth control when it was offered before their release, while only 4 per cent took advantage of free birth control offered at a community health center after their release.

''Despite an increased need for reproductive health services among incarcerated women who are at risk for STDs and pregnancy, they are often underserved in receipt of reproductive health and family planning services,'' Clarke and colleagues write.

They want to see programmes designed to expand reproductive health services during incarceration. ''Such interventions will benefit the women, the criminal justice systems, and the communities to which the women will return,'' they conclude.

REUTERS SI SSC1106

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