Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Putting people to jail because of tuberculosis

In an effort to stop the spread of tuberculosis, the government of Kenya puts some of the infected people in prison. The goal of this is to keep people on their medications, for stopping to take the pills could lead to drug-resistant infections of TB.

Advocates say that jailing those who are only sick is still a gross violation of human rights. Those who are in jail just to be kept on their medication regimen are in the same cell as criminals and cannot get the needed nutrition to fight TB.

From the IPS, writer Susan Anyangu-Amu takes a look at this sad practice.

Daniel Ngetich and Patrick Kipngetich are presently cooling their heels in a government of Kenya prison; unless a court orders otherwise, they will remain there for eight months until they finish their TB treatment.

Henry Ngetich, who was also arrested for defaulting on his treatment, was lucky enough to end up in hospital because he is in critical condition.

The move by the Kenyan government to arrest and incarcerate TB sufferers has been castigated by human rights organisations who term it a violation of their rights.

"Everyone has a right to quality medical care and this must be provided with dignity and respect," said Pascaline Kang’ethe the national coordinator, rights to health and HIV/AIDS at ActionAid International Kenya. "This is a case of discrimination and the move is bound to cause others in need of treatment to shy away fearing arrest."

Nelson Otwoma, the chief executive officer of Network of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, said the two men are being held in prison in deplorable conditions and do not have access to the proper nutrition that is required for TB treatment.

"When we visited, we found them being held in the same room as other prisoners. They were not in isolation. To make matters worse they are being treated like common criminals and are handcuffed and under armed guard," Otwoma said.

Speaking to IPS, the head of the National Leprosy and TB control programme, Joseph Sitienei defended the government's action, saying they had acted to safeguard the interest of others after receiving complaints from family members.

"The public health officer in that region acted within law under the public health Act section 27 – which authorises him to take necessary action including detaining infectious patients to prevent the spread of a disease," Sitienei said.

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