The high burden of tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in a large Zambian prison: a public health alert

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 14;8(8):e67338. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067338. eCollection 2013.


Background: Tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) represent two of the greatest health threats in African prisons. In 2010, collaboration between the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, the Zambia Prisons Service, and the National TB Program established a TB and HIV screening program in six Zambian prisons. We report data on the prevalence of TB and HIV in one of the largest facilities: Lusaka Central Prison.

Methods: Between November 2010 and April 2011, we assessed the prevalence of TB and HIV amongst inmates entering, residing, and exiting the prison, as well as in the surrounding community. The screening protocol included complete history and physical exam, digital radiography, opt-out HIV counseling and testing, sputum smear and culture. A TB case was defined as either bacteriologically confirmed or clinically diagnosed.

Results: A total of 2323 participants completed screening. A majority (88%) were male, median age 31 years and body mass index 21.9. TB symptoms were found in 1430 (62%). TB was diagnosed in 176 (7.6%) individuals and 52 people were already on TB treatment at time of screening. TB was bacteriologically confirmed in 88 cases (3.8%) and clinically diagnosed in 88 cases (3.8%). Confirmed TB at entry and exit interventions were 4.6% and 5.3% respectively. Smear was positive in only 25% (n = 22) of bacteriologically confirmed cases. HIV prevalence among inmates currently residing in prison was 27.4%.

Conclusion: Ineffective TB and HIV screening programs deter successful disease control strategies in prison facilities and their surrounding communities. We found rates of TB and HIV in Lusaka Central Prison that are substantially higher than the Zambian average, with a trend towards concentration and potential transmission of both diseases within the facility and to the general population. Investment in institutional and criminal justice reform as well as prison-specific health systems is urgently required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Coinfection / epidemiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons*
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult
  • Zambia / epidemiology

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