The struggle against TB continues

Clarity Sibanda, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has become the latest, and one of the few countries, in the region to roll out the latest TB drug called Delamanid, to treat difficult case of multi drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB. The new TB treatment program will see patients taking one drug per day as opposed to between 12 and 16 tablets. The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa said the introduction of the new drug is anticipated to help the country improve cure rates.

70% of the global TB and HIV/AIDS co-infections are in sub-Saharan Africa, with Zimbabwe ranking 20th among countries in this category. According to the WHO Global TB Report 2016, there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases of TB disease (also known as active TB) in 2015 and this included 1.2 million among HIV positive people. There were an estimated 3.5 million cases among women and an estimated 1.0 million cases of TB in children. The TB bacterium is spread through droplets in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and exposure to someone with untreated TB increases the chances of infection. This disease can affect several organs of the body, besides the lungs—which are most commonly infected, giving rise to pulmonary TB. In its World TB Day 2017, press statement, Southern Africa Aids Information Dissemination (SAfAIDS) said their mandate includes ensuring that all people in Africa are free from the burden of TB.

“SAfAIDS therefore continues to commit to re-invigorate our awareness raising efforts in Africa, so that people understand and appreciate the availability of TB detection and treatment services. There is no need for us to experience such high numbers of TB related deaths in our continent. Seeking services early is a priority, if not a must. As an information organization, we continue to work towards ending TB in Southern Africa through advocacy, community and social mobilisation. For us, this means taking a whole-of-society and multidisciplinary approach, in the context of universal health coverage. That way, we will all be showing our unity towards ending TB,” SafAIDS added. The burden of HIV and TB co-infection is recognized the world over, as TB, if left untreated, can reverse HIV treatment gains. The organisation said it continues to intensify its efforts to ensure that HIV and TB co-infection is eradicated as the world gears up to end AIDS by 2030 and they are in full support of the new TB ethics guidelines, launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), as they aim to help ensure that countries implementing the End TB Strategy adhere to sound ethical standards to protect the rights of all those affected. These include the right to access TB services without experiencing any challenges.

Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme, said that, “Without broad and prompt action, the disease, which is the top infectious killer in the world today, will continue ripping the world of its population. TB mostly strikes the poorest of the poor and the vulnerable. Not a single country today is free of TB, or has ever eliminated the disease”. Dr Mario said to succeed in the fight against TB, as stipulated in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, there is need for commitment in raising awareness and mobilising resources to fight for the human rights of equity and health for social justice”. He added that to conquer TB and other diseases of the poor, universal coverage of all health services must be realised; equally fundamental is the eradication of poverty, elimination of hunger, reduction of inequalities and putting in place strong social protection mechanisms, among other issues affecting the continent. He also urged musicians to raise their voices in the fight against TB, arguing that when words fail music speaks.

Clarity Sibanda, Citizen News Service - CNS
April 3, 2017