Members of the criminal justice, social justice and health sectors discussed strategies to prevent and treat tuberculosis (TB) – the leading cause of death in South Africa’s correctional centres – at the University of the Witwatersrand on Tuesday, 28 May 2013.
The roundtable focused on strengthening the Guidelines for the Management of Tuberculosis, Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Correctional Centres, 2013, which were jointly announced by the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Health on World TB Day in March this year.
Some of the key recommendations included working with the Minister of Police to manage TB in police holding cells and to avoid the interruption of treatment when people are arrested; working with the Department of Public Works to improve ventilation in correctional facilities; implementing systems to ensure more accurate reporting of TB cases in prisons; screening prison staff for TB; integrating anti-retroviral treatment and TB treatment; and providing inmates with supplements of Vitamin D, which is essential in preventing and fighting the disease.
Two former inmates shared their experience of contracting TB while in custody. They included Dudley Lee, who successfully sued the Minister of Correctional Services in 2012 in a landmark Constitutional Court case that highlighted the State’s responsibility to ensure that detainees’ rights to health are maintained and safeguarded.
Other speakers included Department of Correctional Services Director of Health Maria Mabena, Wits pulmonologist Dr Andrew Black, UCT infectious diseases expert Professor Robin Wood and renowned American prison architect Paul Silver,
The event was hosted by the Wits Justice Project, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27.
These organizations will be producing an outcome document to capture the discussions at the Roundtable, which will be sent to stakeholders, including Government departments, and made public, in the near future.
The presentations from the TB roundtable are accessible below