The deadly AIDS virus may be more widespread among prisoners, especially women, than previously thought, a survey indicates.

The nationwide survey of nearly 11,000 inmates entering 10 prisons and jails between June 27, 1988 and May 14, 1989 found rates of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, infection ranged from 2.1 percent to 7.6 percent among men and 2.5 percent to 14.7 percent among women.About 1 million Americans - or 0.4 percent of the total U.S. population - are thought to be infected with HIV, the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said.

The HIV-infection rates found in the latest study "are higher than most previously published reports" of the extent of HIV infection in jails and prisons, said the researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and the CDC.

A prior survey found the prevalence of HIV among people admitted to correctional facilities in 1986 and 1987 ranged from about zero percent to about 0.9 percent in 10 states where the virus was releatively uncommon. However, much higher rates of infection were found in studies in two states with high AIDS incidence - about 7 percent of entrants to Maryland correctional facilities were HIV positive and 17.4 percent of incoming inmates in New York.

"For this study, a deliberate effort was made to include correctional systems from areas of moderate and high AIDS incidence . . . to provide a more complete view of HIV-infection among inmates entering U.S. jails and prisons," David Vlahov of Johns Hopkins and his colleagues wrote.

At nine of the 10 correctional facilities examined, female prisoners had higher rates of HIV infection than their male counterparts. The difference was greatest among prisoners under age 25, with 5.2 percent of women in that age group testing positive for the deadly virus compared with 2.3 percent of men.