By Daisy Galaviz.
On July 28, 2020, the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP in Spanish) reported that, in less than a week five, inmates at the Fenix Lara Penitentiary Community died of tuberculosis. That has been the most serious incident to date in a trend that began months ago and, tragically, seems to be worsening, as a local NGO reports that between October 2019 and April 2020, 55 Venezuelan prisoners died from this disease.
The increase in the number of prisoners who died from tuberculosis and malnutrition led the organization to carry out an investigation called HIV and tuberculosis in Venezuelan Prisons.
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The study, published Wednesday, was carried out between October 2019 and April 2020 and showed that during that period, 55 prisoners held in temporal jail (after being sentenced) and 61 prisoners in dungeons died from illnesses such as tuberculosis, HIV, and malnutrition. Most of the prisoners were residents of the states of Bolivar, Carabobo, and Lara.In most of the cases, the victims are poor and as young as 15 but no older than 45.
The director of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, Carolina Giron, reported that in 2019, unlike other years when violence was the first cause of death, tuberculosis and other diseases were now the principal reason for the death figures of prisoners; at least 11,000 prisoners nationwide were infected with the disease.
Dr. Santiago Bacci pointed out some factors that have generated an increase in cases of tuberculosis in prisons of Venezuela: lack of medicines, overcrowding, poor hygiene, malnutrition, cigarettes, alcohol intake, and lack of water. According to him, the profile of most of those infected are men between 15 and 45 years of age, from humble homes, and who are in complex custody environments where it is difficult to diagnose the disease.
The doctor said that when tuberculosis is untreated, it can be fatal and ends up spreading to those around the patient. According to Bacci, the next step for those infected who do not receive adequate treatment is to wait to see the progressive development of the disease and its complications, including death.
In the introduction of the special report of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, the organization highlighted how alarming the situation is for the prisoners of Lara State since out of 78 infected, between October 2019 and April 2020, only 18 received medical attention and 15 died.