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Africa has brought TB epidemic under control

Winile Mavuso

Available information indicates that significant progress is being made to bring the TB epidemic under control in Africa.The region, according to outgoing World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative Dr Owen Kaluwa has halted the previously increasing trend of TB cases and is observing a declining trend of TB in the last four years. Dr Kaluwa said this during the launch of the National Strategic Plan (2015-2019) at Happy Valley Hotel on Monday.

Speaking at the event, Dr Kaluwa noted that TB was indeed a serious problem in the country, urging all stakeholders to join hands to fight it, in line with this year’s TB Day commemoration theme:

‘Reach, Treat and Cure everyone’. He noted that each year, there was an estimated nine million TB cases worldwide but consistently; three million cases were either not diagnosed, not treated and were diagnosed and not registered by national TB control programmes.

“Reaching, treating and curing all those with TB, especially the vulnerable groups and communities is a critical part of the solution and we need to do more- including work across all sectors to prevent TB through poverty reduction and social protection and achieve universal health coverage,” he said.

Dr Kaluwa noted that despite the progress made in the African region, TB continued to be a major public health concern. The region has the highest TB and TB/HIV co-infection rates in the world, coupled with the emerging challenge of drug resistant TB (MDR), which has not yet been adequately addressed.

Over the past 12 months, WHO estimated that TB was responsible for over half a million deaths in the region.

The TB and TB/HIV spread is fuelled by among other things; poor access to health services, lack of trained health care providers and weak healthcare delivery systems.

“I therefore, call upon all countries and partners to intensify efforts to reach, treat and cure everyone with TB and pay special attention to underserved areas and vulnerable people.

I urge the public to overcome TB barriers, correct misconceptions about the disease and promote health behaviour.

Patients and their families must also adhere to TB treatments in order to improve cure rates, control the spread of infection and minimise the development of drug resistance,” said Dr Kaluwa who leaves the country for Congo Brazzaville today.

Strategy to achieve 90% treatment success rate by 2019

NATIONAL TB Control Programme Manager Themba Dlamini said the new strategy would guide the programme and partners to provide treatment for all diagnosed TB cases and achieve at least 90% treatment success rate by 2019.
The programme manager said this was one of the objectives of the strategy, adding that it aimed to reduce TB prevalence from 945 per 100 000 people to 615 per 100 000 people.
He outlined that other objectives of the strategy were to diagnose and enrol on treatment at least 52 000 TB cases by 2019, to implement and expand country-wide collaborative TB/HIV activities and management of co-morbidities by 2019 and also to provide treatment and support to all drug-resistant TB cases and reduce MDR prevalence rate among new TB cases to less than 5% by 2019.

Dlamini mentioned that the programme has been allocated over E250 million ($25m) by the Global Fund which would help them in implementing the strategy. He said the goal was to scale-up early TB case detection and treatment initiation among people who would not present in health facilities and the most at risk populations.

Over 5 000 TB cases recorded last year, 433 MDR

DURING the launch of the National Strategic Plan (2015-2019) at Happy Valley Hotel on Monday, National TB Control Programme Manager Themba Dlamini reported that about 5 582 cases were recorded last year.
Dlamini told the meeting that 433 Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB cases were recorded, adding that treatment success rate for MDR TB stood at 56%, while it is at 76% for drug susceptible TB and at 53% for patients co-infected with HIV.

The programme manager noted that TB cases notifications were on the decline. He reported that in 2009, over 11 000 cases were reported and the number dropped to 6 665 in 2013 and further down to 5 582 in 2014.

Published: 01/04/2015. By Winile Mavuso
All material © Swazi Observer

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