In Prison, a Little Health Care Goes a Long Way

Published: October 28, 2011

On the second floor of the tuberculosis ward there are at least 20 cells with thick steel doors that isolate the inmates from anyone who is not medical or nursing staff. They are used for prisoners infected with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), which is particularly dangerous.

Curing MDR-TB takes at least 18 months and the treatment is expensive. "It’s a difficult and exhausting course of treatment, and very painful because of the numerous injections involved," said Dr. María Elena Salas.

"The reason these patients are kept in strict quarantine is so that they don’t give up the treatment, and don’t infect other people," she said.

This section, which people can only enter wearing face masks and protective gear, has 28 patients with MDR-TB, some of whom are also living with HIV/AIDS.

Inmate Eddy Ruiz, an activist fighting discrimination against homosexuals, met IPS at Lurigancho prison. Together with members of the Comunidad Virgen de la Puerta, a gay rights group, Ruiz works on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, which are one of the greatest concerns in San Juan de Lurigancho.

"There are men who have sex with men, but who are not gay; another group is bisexual; there are transvestites and gays who prostitute themselves; and then there are openly declared homosexuals in the prison, who may have stable partners," Ruiz said.

"The greatest danger is from those who hide their sexual identity, who are infected and infect others indiscriminately," said Ruiz, who is serving a six-year sentence for sexual aggression.

Ruiz and the other activists encourage inmates to have rapid diagnostic tests for HIV/AIDS, now that they can be properly treated with appropriate medication. (END)

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