Baku, March 24, 2003
Eliminating tuberculosis as a public health threat in prisons
On the occasion of the World Tuberculosis Day 2003, the international community
engaged in the fight against TB celebrates the discovery of the TB bacillus,
which opened the modern era against the white plague. The modern strategy to
fight this epidemic is called Directly Observed Treatment Short course and is
recommended by the World Health Organisation. This strategy is implemented by
the ICRC in its TB programmes in prisons in the Southern Caucasus.
The involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in treating
Tuberculosis (TB) in the Azerbaijani penitentiary system dates back to June
1995 being a response to the considerable magnitude of the problem. As cooperation
with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) proved to be successful, a pilot project
developed into a full-fledged TB control programme. In July 1998, a newly rehabilitated
penitentiary hospital was deployed by the MOJ to become a central TB treatment
facility for all inmates.
Since 1999, having accomplished training of the medical staff, the ICRC has
begun handing over most of the responsibilities in the treatment process to
the MOJ. With the beginning of the hand-over process, the role of the ICRC in
day-to-day activities in the TB hospital developed more into technical assistance
with evaluation functions.
To date, over 4,500 TB-affected detainees have been integrated into the treatment
course in accordance with the DOTS protocol. The ICRC provides first-line medicines,
laboratory materials for bacteriological diagnosis and helps with technical
advice when necessary. The joint team of ICRC specialists and TB coordination
unit of the MOJ regularly evaluate progress of the program.
To improve the TB control program in prisons, the ICRC supported MOJ in their
effort to embark on the Active Finding of the TB cases, more particularly the
MMR screening at the pre-trial isolator. New ward for women prisoners afflicted
by TB was constructed with assistance of the ICRC.
The ICRC has started the distribution of over 6,000 leaflets and 160 posters
produced by the Delegation in Azerbaijan in the frame of health education on
tuberculosis (TB) prevention project in the penitentiary system of Azerbaijan.
Together with the Ministry of Justice, the ICRC has launched this project to
increase knowledge of TB regarding early signs and symptoms, and DOTS treatment
procedures for the detainees, their visitors, medical staff and security personnel.
In addition, information seminars cover the Specialised Treatment Institution
for Detainees with Tuberculosis and Bailov pre-trial isolator of the Ministry
of Justice, where each new detainee benefits from a TB briefing session at the
time of the entry. This health education programme is expected to be extended
to all places of detention in Azerbaijan.