Reducing TB and HIV/Aids in SA’s prisons

Reducing TB and HIV/Aids in SA’s prisons

TB screening of inmates has increased to more than 90 percent, which adds up to 180 000 inmates screened since the national tuberculosis (TB) programme began in 2014. This was revealed at a recent five-day TB and HIV/Aids meeting held by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the Department of Health (DoH), Right to Care and various other partners.

Because inmates and employees of the DCS are at high risk of contracting TB in the prison system – in which overcrowded conditions can cause problems that filter back into their communities – the DCS launched a national TB programme to address this serious issue. The programme, which focuses on TB and HIV/Aids, is showing significant success.

The results revealed that in the 2016/17 financial year almost 32 000 people were screened for TB using chest X-rays, which exceeds previous targets. Encouraging results include that, according to preliminary data available from the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State/Northern Capes regions, the disease in 82 percent of inmates on antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been virally suppressed. 

In nine months, all supported centres have transitioned onto the electronic patient database of the DoH. Facilities and committees have been established to implement infection prevention and control activities, as well as support for inmates and DCS employees. Fellow inmates and officials are being trained as peer educators, and support groups have been established to help improve inmate access to care and treatment adherence.

Right to Care supports 81 correctional centres in 13 management areas in the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State/Northern Cape regions. Between July 2014 and January 2017 Right to Care provided HIV counselling and testing (HCT) to 133 654 inmates and officials, while it provided TB screening for 430 106 inmates and officials during the same period.

The aim for this programme is to align with the World Health Organization guidelines and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all, and to end the epidemics of HIV/Aids, TB and other communicable diseases by 2030.

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