AT least 14 percent of prison inmates in three correctional centres in the Midlands province, namely Gwanda, Shurugwi and Blue Hills probation centres tested positive for Tuberculosis (TB) according to an assessment conducted by the Jointed Hands Welfare Organisation (JHWO).
By Michael Gwarisa
Speaking to HealthTimes, JHWO Communications and Liaison Officer, Melody Mukundwi said they tested and screened a number inmates in the province and a number of them tested positive for the respiratory ailment.
“JHWO is operational in three prisons Gwanda, Shurungwi and Blue Hills probation in Gweru. In these prisons JHWO conducts head to toe health assessments, these assessments include TB screening. To date JHWO has screened 215 inmates for TB of which 137 were male inmates whilst 78 were female inmates.
“14% of the tested inmates tested positive for TB. JHWO is currently seeking funding for establishment of nutritional gardens in these prisons to supplement prison diet, skills training for inmates as well as health care supplements to assist in health assessments,” said Mukundwi.
The JHWO) is a not-for-profit organisation that was formed in 2004 and registered as a PVO in 2008. JHWO operates in four provinces namely Midlands, Matebeleland South, Mashonaland West and Masvingo. Amongst its vast operations JHWO also works with Key Populations (Prisoners).
Zimbabwe commenced a TB assessment drive around 2016 to assess the situation in prisons as well as come up with lasting solutions to TB in closed environments such as prisons.
TB in Zimbabwe and other African countries is largely driven by factors related to poverty, and the negative effects of TB and HIV Co-infection.
According to the USAID, TB in correctional settings (e.g., jails, prisons, detention centers) remains a growing problem and there are approximately 10 million individuals who are detained worldwide.
“Inmates are at greater risk of developing TB than people in the general population due to their close, prolonged indoor confinement and other associated conditions common among inmates. TB incidence is 5 to 70 times greater in prisons than in communities.
“Prisons are often high-risk environments for TB transmission because of severe overcrowding, poor nutrition, poor ventilation and limited access to often insufficient health care. Prisoners are overwhelmingly male, are typically aged 15–45 years, and come predominantly from poorly educated and socioeconomically deprived sectors of the population where TB infection and transmission are higher,” said USAID in their paper dubbed Tuberculosis In Prisons: a growing public health challenge.
Prisons provide ideal conditions for TB transmission. The bacterium causing TB is distributed by very small aerosol droplets that are produced when someone with active TB coughs, sneezes, spits or speaks, enabling one person to infect many others.
Therefore, the risk of TB being transmitted in settings in which people are in close contact – as in prisons – is particularly high.
Numerous other risk factors, such as poor health services frequently encountered in prisons, poor nutrition, drug addiction, and the presence of other conditions, such as HIV infection, predispose imprisoned people to a high risk of TB incidence.
The combination of overcrowding, poor ventilation and lack of screening for TB turns prisons into breeding grounds and incubators for TB. This also leads to the transmission of the disease among prison staff.