Largest mass screening for TB held in New Bilibid Prison – ICRC

Manila, March 29 — The largest mass screening for tuberculosis (TB) in the country is being held for about 5,700 inmates in New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Muntinlupa City, as part of efforts to end TB in Philippine jails and prisons.

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 NBP with the support of the 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,” said Dr. Fatah Labib, who is in charge of the ICRC’s TB in jails program.

According to 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 4 to 5 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,” said Dr. Cecilia Villanueva, TB Coordinator of NBP.

The ICRC, a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, supports Philippine authorities in their efforts to improve detention conditions and may carry out projects to improve detainees’ access to water, sanitation and health care. (ICRC)


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