Improving tuberculosis & HIV screening in Ethiopian prisons

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By Dr. Negussie Beyene | Program Manager TB Ethiopia

APOPO carries out mass screening and capacity building project.

APOPO in partnership with Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI), the Ethiopian chapter of the German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief association (GLRA), the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health and the Ethiopian Federal Prison Administration has been working on improving tuberculosis and HIV screening project in Ethiopian prisons.

The main objectives of the project were to conduct tuberculosis (TB) and HIV mass screening in 35 Ethiopian prisons, reaching 52,500 prison community members (inmates and staff), building capacity of prison health personnel so that they can conduct entry, exit and routine screening by themselves, and provide technical support for sustainable TB-control efforts in these prisons.

To this effect, prison health personnel from 14 prisons were trained for TB and HIV screening as per the national guidelines and 24,175 prison community members in the 14 prisons were offered TB and HIV screening in the pre-Covid season (March 2019 to February 2020). Unfortunately, the emergence of Covid-19 in Ethiopia in March 2020 lead to a state of emergency, banning all access to prisons and any type of public gatherings which meant the project was suspended until the state of emergency was lifted in early September 2020.

Initially the project had planned for completion by February 2020, but largely due to a combination of the security situation in Ethiopia and a shortage of HIV test kits, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) generously offered a no-cost extension for the project up to December 2020. However, the Covid situation didn’t allow for training of prison health personnel and mass TB- and HIV-screening in the remaining 21 prisons. Therefore, in September 2020, APOPO went ahead and trained the health personnel not only in TB- and HIV-screening, but also in Covid-screening.

Furthermore, from October to December 2020, 21,999 prison community members in 12 prisons were offered TB- and HIV-screening. Thanks again to our kind donor EJAF, APOPO and its partners agreed to use funding allocated to mass screening of the remaining 9 prisons for the provision of Covid-19 prevention materials, a more urgent need. This included 2,000 liters of in-house prepared sanitizer, 3,500 liters of hypochlorite, 10,512 rolls of tissue paper, 1,720 hand soaps, 6,500 N-95 masks, 70 infrared thermometers, 70 eye googles, 70 overall gowns, and 25,000 pairs of gloves to all 35 prisons that were selected for the project. In addition, 45,000 sputum cups, 35 digital scales and 8 Zeiss fluorescence microscopes (FM) were provided to sustain the TB screening in these prisons.

APOPO TB Ethiopia thanks the health authorities as well as our partners and donors for their continued support.