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Health: ICRC and WHO draw attention to tuberculosis in prisons

23-07-1997 News Release 97/28

The ICRC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have joined forces to focus world attention on the serious problem of tuberculosis in prisons.

The two organizations recently convened a meeting in Azerbaijan, which was attended by TB experts from Azerbaijan, Russia and Georgia and representatives of other agencies concerned. Following the meeting, a declaration was issued in which the ICRC and WHO called upon governments around the world to take steps to improve health care for prisoners and provide adequate treatment for those suffering from the disease.

The Baku Declaration underlined the scale of the problem, warning that TB had become a major health hazard for prisoners. The threat was compounded by the spread of HIV in prisons, which increases the risk of death from TB, and by the development of drug-resistant, often incurable forms of the disease.

The Declaration pointed out that the problem was not confined to prisons. " Tuberculosis in prisons easily spreads into the community from infectious prisoners and infectious prison staff (...). If there is no response to our call for action, incurable tuberculosis will increase deaths among prisoners and their families, and prison staff and the community. "

Last year, in accordance with its mandate, the ICRC sent teams into some 2,000 places of detention in over 60 countries. Such teams include medical delegates, who assess the health of prisoners, access to medical care and sanitation conditions and make the necessary recommendations to the detaining authorities.