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Health Ministry Boosts TB Fight In Prisons With GeneXpert Machines

Uganda’s Ministry of Health has given the country’s prisons fight against Tuberculosis a big boost with the donation of over 4 GeneXpert machines to increase tuberculosis testing among inmates.

The machines were handed over by the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine on Thursday to the Uganda Prisons boss, Johnson Byabashaija.

Dr Diana shares a word with Byabashaija during the handover

“Today we handed over 4 genexpert machines to the Commissioner General, Uganda Prisons Service to increase their diagnostic capacity in Prisons and reduce turnaround time for samples taken for TB from inmates and staff. A recent study shows that TB prevalence is 10 times more in our prisons than in the general population due to over congestion among other factors thus need for timely testing and treatment if found with TB,” Diana said during the handover.

Diana was accompanied by the Director General Health Services, Dr Henry Mwebesa, Commissioner Laboratory Services, Dr Susan Nabbada, Asst. Commissioner in charge of National TB and Leprosy Program, Dr Stavia Turyahabwe.

The additional machines provide an opportunity for expanded capacity for TB diagnosis and detection of the resistant strains among inmates allowing for prompt initiation of treatment. The TB prevalence is 4x higher among prisoners than the general population.

The machines come as a major boost for the prisons service after leaders last year expressed concern over the high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) among inmates due to overwhelming numbers.

Speaking after the machines were handed over, Byabashaija paid tribute to the health ministry for the gesture saying;

“I would like to once more express my sincere gratitude to the ministry of Health for recognizing the need to increase the capacity of the prisons service to address health challenges,not only in the Area of TB but I am meant to Understand that with the right catridges, this equipment can also diagnose COVID-19.”

Tuberculosis remains a major public health problem causing unnecessary morbidity and mortality and Uganda’s response to the disease is guided by the National TB strategic Plan 2016-2020.

The 2014/2015 national TB disease prevalence survey found a higher rate of disease burden than previously estimated at 253 and 234 per 100,000 for prevalence and incidence respectively versus 159 and 161 per 100,000 in the previous estimates. The estimated treatment coverage is thus low at about 51% with nearly 41,000 TB cases “missed” in 2015.

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.

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