The government is being asked to agree to a medical trial to find out how many prisoners have been exposed to Hepatitis C.
An estimated 50,000 people in New Zealand have the disease, which is transmitted mainly through intravenous needles or badly sterilised medical equipment. Hepatitis C targets the liver, and can be fatal.
Little is known about its prevalence in the prison population, but figures from other countries such as the USA and Ireland suggest it could affect 40 to 50 percent of inmates.
No such studies have been carried out in New Zealand.
Former Hep-C sufferer Hazel Heal said there were cheap, quick tests which could identify whether people had been exposed to the disease.
She said a Dunedin doctor and researcher was already carrying out such a study at community sites and had offered to help with the test, should it go ahead at a prison.
Ms Heal has asked Corrections and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman to consider her proposal.