Concern over high TB prevalence in prisons

Wednesday July 17 2019

Prevention. Inmates wear masks to prevent spread of TB at Luzira prison yesterday. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA

Kampala. Prisons authorities have expressed concern over the high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) among inmates due to overwhelming numbers.

Speaking yesterday during a tour of Luzira prison by the Parliamentary Committee on HIV/Aids, Dr James Kisambu, the prisons’ assistant commissioner for health, said TB is becoming a general problem in all prisons nationwide, with Mbarara prison having the highest number of TB patients.

“The transmission of TB in prison is very rampant because there is a lot of congestion and there are not enough facilities for the isolation of people with TB. They all keep in the area,” Dr Kisambu said.
“For now, only Mbarara prison has an isolation facility for people with TB because it has the highest number of multidrug resistant (MDR) TB cases,” he added.

Ms Florence Nambozo Wamala, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on HIV/Aids, urged government to provide more funding for prisons to build more facilities.
“There is a need to decongest prisons, Luzira in particular, in order to prevent the spread of such diseases that are communicable,” she said.

The current TB prevalence in the prison countrywide is 623 per 100,000 compared to 174 per 100,000 people for the whole country. The high figures are blamed on overcrowding, poor infrastructure and limited access to treatment.
Luzira prison, for instance, is supposed to accommodate about 1,000 inmates but the numbers can go up to 3,500 prisoners.

The female wing at the prison as of Tuesday had six TB patients who are responding to treatment and four of these are also living with HIV. Murchison Bay Hospital has 69 TB patients; six of whom have the multidrug resistant strain.
The prevalence of HIV/Aids is also high among both prison staff and the inmates.


Dr Alex Kakoraki, the medical superintendent of Murchison Bay hospital, said the HIV/Aids prevalence is at 34.4 per cent among female inmates and 14.4 per cent in males. The prevalence for prison staff is 10.5 per cent for males and 14.5 for females (12 per cent average) against the country’s 6.2 per cent.

“The prisoners on remand are hard to monitor because they can be in and out of prison any time. If by chance they are released, they do not pick their ART card on which they have been taking their ARVs,” Dr Kakoraki said.