Azerbaijan: ICRC hands over tuberculosis control programme in prisons

Azerbaijan: ICRC hands over tuberculosis control programme in prisons
# 29 March 2011 12:01 (UTC +04:00)
The handover ceremony took place in the capital, Baku, in the presence of Azerbaijan’s justice minister, Fikrat Mammadov, and the ICRC’s head of operations for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Pascale Meige Wagner.

Since 1995, the ICRC has provided expertise, equipment and drugs for the treatment of detainees in Azerbaijan infected with TB. As a result, the number of detainees dying from the disease has dropped dramatically, and the country’s penitentiaries now have one of the highest TB cure rates in the world.

"In the 1990s, TB was the main cause of death among detainees," said Nizami Guliyev, who heads the Special Treatment Institute for Detainees with Tuberculosis in Baku. "In 1995, we had around 470 detainees die from this disease. Since then, we have managed to bring down the number of annual deaths to just under 20."

The institute is a modern facility housing around 1,000 infected detainees from across Azerbaijan’s penal colonies. It has an on-site diagnostics laboratory and pharmacy, X-ray machines and an elaborate ventilation system put in place to provide a maximum of fresh air in the cells and communal sleeping areas.

"Prisons everywhere often suffer from overcrowding, poor nutrition and inadequate health services – that makes them a particularly difficult and complex environment in which to tackle TB. In addition, the well-being and health of detainees are often not considered a priority," said the ICRC’s coordinator for health services in places of detention, Dr Raed Aburabi. "Azerbaijan’s experience shows that with enough political will and perseverance, significant progress can be made." He stressed, however, that in order to make the fight against TB really successful, the efforts made in penitentiaries must be accompanied by appropriate measures taken by public health agencies.

The programme in Baku’s Special Treatment Institute has proved so successful that the ICRC plans to promote it as a model of cooperation for other countries where prisons remain a major breeding ground for TB, a disease that keeps on developing new and deadlier drug-resistant forms.

For over 15 years, the ICRC has been fighting TB in prisons in countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Peru, the Philippines and Uganda, and elsewhere around the world. Over the past two years, it has handed over its TB-related activities to the authorities in Armenia and Georgia.
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