The prevalence of Tuberculosis (TB) in prisons and surrounding camps is 15 times more than the 2011 national estimates, a survey conducted recently has revealed.
And Deputy Minister of Health Chileshe Chilufya says the fight against TB is being hampered by the HIV/AIDS prevalence.
The Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia (CIRDZ) did a research on enhancing TB screening services in Zambia’s prisons and this was done in six prisons among 7,638 people.
The findings indicate that the prevalence of TB in prisons and surrounding areas was higher than the 2011 national estimates.
The 2011 national estimates of TB in prison is 4005/100,000 population.
This came to the fore during the official opening of the CIDRZ TB programme and research dissemination meeting in Lusaka yesterday.
The National TB control programme anchors on a number of pillars among them, the introduction of systematic TB symptoms screening of high risk populations such as individuals living with HIV or those living in high density congregate settings such as prisoners.
CIDRZ study coordinator Sisa Hatwiinda said for continuity of care, prisons require improved diagnostics, and strengthening prison health services with external health systems and health management.
Ms Hatwiinda said the research revealed the need for prisons to be prioritised for disease control and treatment. “We also found that there is need to engage prisons staff at all levels to improve programming in prisons,” she said.
Ms Hatwiinda said infrastructure development is needed to urgently reduce overcrowding in order to support infection control and on-site diagnostic capacity.
The study further recommended the need to intensify TB and HIV screening in the prisons to avoid the spread to communities where prisoners go after release.
According to the Zambia Prisons Health Services, the prisons population stands at 16,500 in all the 86 prisons.
And speaking at the official opening of the meeting, Dr Chilufya said: “Tuberculosis remains a major health problem at country, regional and global levels. In 2012 alone, the country reported 45,000 TB cases.”
He said the increasing and global burden of TB is linked to the HIV infection having more than half of the 45,000 cases reported being co-infected with the virus.
The minister said HIV and AIDS epidemic has caused a resurgence of TB, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality in the country.
He said the vicious interaction between the HIV and TB pandemics poses special challenges to the national TB control programme.
“The rise of new strains of TB resistant to drug treatment represents one of the gravest public health threats facing the world today,” Dr Chilufya said.
He said government through effective collaboration with partners has made considerable progress in tackling TB, recording detection rates above 70 percent and cure of more than 85 percent.
Source: Zambia Daily Mail