ABOUT 5,700 inmates in New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) were screened for tuberculosis (TB) as part of efforts to stop the spread of the disease.
The mass screening in the maximum security compound, which began on March 14 and will end in May, is the fourth such activity held in the NBP with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in collaboration with the Department of Health and Philippine Business for Social Progress.
“The Philippines is part of the global effort to end TB by 2035. To achieve that goal, we must support the authorities in finding the undetected TB cases. Mass screenings have shown to be an effective strategy in reducing, and eventually eliminating TB in jails and prisons,” Dr. Fatah Labib, who is in charge of the ICRC’s TB in jails program, said.
According to the 2015 Global Tuberculosis Report, the Philippines ranked 9th among the 22 high-burden countries in the world in terms of TB cases. Every day, 63 Filipinos die from TB.
TB is four to five times more prevalent in jails and prisons compared to communities in the Philippines.
In 2013, the ICRC and Bureau of Corrections partnered to improve TB control in NBP, with mass screening as one of the strategies. Some 280 TB cases were found during previous mass screenings of a total 8,833 inmates. Of these cases, 27 were Multi-Drug-Resistant (MDR), a severe type of TB.
Inmates who were found with TB through the mass screenings immediately underwent treatment at the NBP Hospital’s TB Treatment Unit.
Aside from providing technical support, the ICRC donated one mobile digital chest X-ray, and two GeneXpert testing units that allow the diagnosis of MDR TB cases within two hours.
“One missed inmate with TB can infect around 10-20 inmates, their visiting families, or prison guards in a given year. To effectively control TB, every inmate counts and no one should be left behind. We want to help inmates, at least, to be free from TB and to live healthy while inside the prison,” Dr. Cecilia Villanueva, TB Coordinator of the NBP, said.