Experts recommend improvements in prison TB plan

Ludick Mabyane, a former inmate who almost died in prison after contracting tuberculosis (Photo: Hazel Meda).

Ludick Mabyane, a former inmate who almost died in prison after contracting tuberculosis (Photo: Hazel Meda).

HAZEL MEDA

Ludick Mabyane had only one request for the head of Losperfontein Correctional Centre in Brits, North West. He just wanted to be allowed to die in his father’s arms.

“I was looking death in the eye,” recalls Mabyane, who contracted TB while at Losperfontein.

Mabyane was speaking at a roundtable on TB management in prisons held at Wits University recently.

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.

The event was hosted by the Wits Justice Project, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27 and brought together about 50 senior members of the criminal justice, social justice and health sectors.

Mabyane described how he had to share his medication with other inmates and use dusty, poor quality blankets which worsened his condition.

He was released on medical parole in August 2007 and his health improved dramatically within just one month, since he ate well and took his treatment properly under his family’s care.

Another former inmate, Dudley Lee, also spoke at the gathering. Lee 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 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.

Some of the key recommendations included working with the police avoid the interruption of treatment while suspects are in holding cells, and working with the Department of Public Works to improve ventilation in correctional facilities.

Participants also highlighted the importance of implementing systems to ensure more accurate reporting of TB cases in prisons; screening prison staff for TB and integrating anti-retroviral treatment and TB treatment.

Prof Wood suggested providing inmates with supplements of Vitamin D. He said this cheap intervention is critical in preventing and fighting the disease, which is the leading cause of death in South Africa’s correctional facilities.

An outcome document detailing all the recommendations made at the meeting will be produced and sent to stakeholders including the relevant Government departments.

 Hazel Meda is a member of the Wits Justice Project, which investigates prison conditions and miscarriages of justice. The WJP is based in the Journalism Department at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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