The escalating tuberculosis crisis in central and South American prisons

The Lancet
Apr 24, 2021 Volume 397 Number 1028 4p1519-1596


Health Policy
The escalating tuberculosis crisis in central and South American prisons
Katharine S Walter, et al
In the past decade, tuberculosis incidence has declined in much of the world, but has risen in central and South America. It is not yet clear what is driving this reversal of progress in tuberculosis control. Since 2000, the incarcerated population in central and South America has grown by 206%, the greatest increase in the world. Over the same period, notified tuberculosis cases among the incarcerated population (hereinafter termed persons deprived of their liberty [PDL], following the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) have risen by 269%. In both central and South America, the rise of disease among PDL more than offsets tuberculosis control gains in the general population. Tuberculosis is increasingly concentrated among PDL; currently, 11% of all notified tuberculosis cases in central and South America occur among PDL who comprise less than 1% of the population. The extraordinarily high risk of acquiring tuberculosis within prisons creates a health and human rights crisis for PDL that also undermines wider tuberculosis control efforts. Controlling tuberculosis in this region will require countries to take urgent measures to prioritise the health of PDL.