Prison authorities have blamed the high number of Tuberculosis (TB) cases in prisons across the country to congestion.
Mr Innocent Draville, the officer-in-charge of Mbarara Main Prison, said prisons were designed to accommodate few inmates but they have been overwhelmed by high numbers, which makes it easy for TB to spread among the inmates.
“Mbarara Main Prison was designed to accommodate 312 prisoners, but we have 2,021 prisoners. These big numbers obviously escalate the spread of TB among the inmates,” Mr Draville said.
He made the remarks while receiving Shs64 million Gene Xpert machine from the Ministry of Health in Mbarara at the weekend.
“Most of the TB cases are within the community. They end up in prison but we are managing the problem. As of this morning (Saturday), we have 37 TB cases,” he added.
The coordinator of Laboratory Services at Uganda Prisons, Mr Charles Butagasa, said they are installing four Gene Xpert machines in four prison units with the high number of TB cases to help in managing the problem.
“We are privileged to have four Gene Xpert machines for Gulu, Jinja, Katojo and Mbarara. These prison units have a higher number of TB cases compared to others. We have been moving across to install the machines and giving onsite training,” Mr Butagasa said.
He said TB cases in prisons are five times higher than those in the general population because of congestion, HIV/Aids and malnutrition.
The clinical officer at Mbarara Main Prison, Mr Robert Walimbwa, said last year, they had 120 cases of TB with two to three cases on a weekly basis but this year, the numbers have gone down to 37.
“We have put in place measures to ensure that every new inmate is tested for everything including TB, HIV/Aids and those found positive for TB are put into isolation and treated,” Mr Walimbwa said.
The assistant commissioner in charge of TB and leprosy at the Ministry of Health, Dr Stavia Turyahabwe, said they are working towards detecting the TB.
“We are boosting the capacity of prison centres to detect TB. The gen Xpert machine we have given to Mbarara is made to diagnose TB and it has high sensitivity of the germ and the gene of the organisms. TB in this country is of public health emergency with an estimated number of 86 nationally developing the disease a day. So with such an intervention in prisons, it will help us to fight the disease,” he said.