Massive TB campaign to be rolled out in prisons

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cape Town – The Correctional Services Regional Commissioner in the Western Cape, Delekile Klaas, says the department will roll out a massive campaign to raise the awareness around tuberculosis (TB) among offenders and surrounding communities.

He said this when the department launched a high-tech digital x-ray machine at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre on Monday.

The Regional Commissioner said this, coupled with the launch of the machine, will intensify the fight against the scourge of the disease among the increasing offender population across all correctional services facilities.

He said it cannot be that during this digital age, people remain uninformed about the fact that TB can be treated and cured.

“I think it is important for us to continue with education around TB. We need to make people understand that TB is curable. 

“To offenders and our officials, test for TB so you can know your status. With our equipment, TB can be cured.

“As the department, we will be launching a campaign to make sure our officials test for TB because you don’t test offenders without testing officials,” he said.

His statement comes not long after President Jacob Zuma, and subsequently Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, announced that a major screening and testing campaign will be launched against the disease in correctional facilities and mining towns – areas where TB has been identified to be the most prevalent.

Despite the fact that it is curable, TB remains the leading cause of death in the country, with one in 116 people developing the disease. 

Two years ago, on 24 March 2013 – World TB Day – former Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe launched the GeneXpert machine at the Pollsmoor Correctional Centre.

According to validated figures from the TB/ HIV Care Association, since then, the department has in partnership with the association screened 68 152 inmates for TB in Pollsmoor alone. Out of that number, 9 922 were tested.

Some 701 inmates were diagnosed with TB and 28 of them were put on multi-drug resistant TB treatment.

In all of South Africa, an estimated 450 000 people got sick with TB in 2013 at a rate of 860 per 100 000 people.

This means that one out of 116 South Africans developed TB.

Harry Hausler, the CEO of the TB/HIV Care Association, said since 2013, the TB screening and testing campaign has had an impact on correctional services centres as it has led to them finding TB cases that were not detected before.

“If one TB patient infects 20 others, then the rapid diagnosis and treatment of 701 cases of TB may have prevented 14 020 other infections in Pollsmoor.

“The time from sputum collection to initiation of TB treatment was also decreased from … almost one week (6.5 days) to less than two days.

“Time to treatment for drug resistant TB decreased even more dramatically from almost one month to less than a week,” he said.        

Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo called on inmates at correctional services centres to ensure that they report tuberculosis symptoms on time and get it treated early to avoid the spread of the epidemic.

“It is high time that every individual in the community take responsibility and take treatment so we reinforce self-empowerment… If you see you have symptoms (like) night sweats, losing weight, coughing hard -- it is up to you to report it.” –