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ICRC News n°05/25 – Southern Caucasus: prisoners particularly vulnerable to TB epidemic

23 Mar 2005 13:03:00 GMT

Source: NGO latest

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – Switzerland

Website: http://www.icrc.org

Every year, three million people die of tuberculosis (TB). Prisoners are particularly exposed: they tend to come from society’s poorest and hence more vulnerable sectors, and prison conditions foster the spread of the disease.

Through its TB-control programme for prisons in the southern Caucasus, the ICRC works with the national authorities to help them meet their objectives, namely to reduce TB morbidity and mortality, to prevent the development of drug-resistant TB and to curb and ultimately stop TB transmission within the prison system by implementing the strategy recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In Georgia, 3,020 prisoners infected with the disease have received treatment since the ICRC programme was launched in 1998. In Armenia, where the programme started in 2002, 270 patients have been treated. In Azerbaijan, the programme has been running for ten years and treated 5,500 patients. The programme owes its success to the involved commitment of the medical staff who work daily to improve the prisoners’ health.

As a result of the programme’s successful implementation, TB mortality in prisons in the southern Caucasus has dropped drastically. In another major achievement, the number of newly-detected infectious cases has fallen.

This does not mean the problem has been solved, however. The conditions of detention are difficult: the prisons are often overcrowded and the prisoners lack light and proper nutrition. What is more, it is difficult for released prisoners to continue to have access to treatment. The ICRC is working to facilitate links between TB services in prisons and outside.

Another major challenge is the high rate of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB patients. Improper treatment in the past (treatment stoppages, incorrect dosage and length of treatment) has lead to the emergence of MDR-TB, the deadliest form of the disease. The ICRC is working with the authorities concerned to develop an MDR case-management strategy in line with international recommendations.

Standards of health care for prisoners should be at least equivalent to that of the society as a whole. This is why the ICRC is helping the national authorities to ensure all sick prisoners have access to proper TB services. What is more, prisons are porous, and the implementation within their walls of effective TB-control programmes contributes to effective TB control in the wider community.

For additional information, please contact: Maia Kardava, ICRC Tbilisi, tel. ++ 995 32 35 55 10 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++ 41 22 730 24 58 / ++ 41 79 217 32 24 or visit our web

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