Despite Progress Tuberculosis still Kills, Time for Action

Despite significant progress, Tuberculosis (TB) still kills; claims 4,500 lives each day, and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease daily, according to TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases co-sponsored by UNICEF, UNDP, WHO and The World Bank.

But as the world marks 2019 Tuberculosis (TB) Day, 44 African countries are already mobilizing to effectively implement the new TB guidelines to be made public by World Health Organisation (WHO).

The guidelines identify pragmatic gaps and research priorities focused on drug-resistant TB and latent TB infections, two priority areas critical to the success of the End TB Strategy.

This will now lead to research activities that will support effective implementation at country level of new WHO TB guidelines.

The 44 out of 47 countries were represented at a four-day workshop in Benin Republic to focus on identifying programmatic gaps in managing both DR-TB and LTBI and defining related operational and implementation research priorities.

TB is the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, taking more lives than HIV/AIDS and malaria. Annually, an estimated 10 million people fall ill with TB.

In addition, about 1.7 billion people are estimated to have a latent TB infection and are at increased risk of developing active TB disease during their lifetime. WHO estimates that 30 million individuals will need preventive treatment for LTBI by 2022.

This was adopted as a target by UN Member States in September 2018 at the first ever UN high level meeting on TB.

According to TDR, resistance to TB drugs is a major obstacle to effective TB care and prevention globally. Close to 600,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant or rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis (MDR/RR-TB) are estimated to emerge each year, with about 90,000 of these in the WHO African Region.

Many more patients have isoniazid-resistant TB, the outcomes of which could be improved by timely detection and suitable treatment.

“In many countries the programmatic management of LTBI is still in its infancy and drug-resistant TB patients often do not receive appropriate treatment,” said Dr Jean-Pierre Baptiste, WHO Representative to Benin.

The new DR-TB treatment recommendations by WHO could potentially help improve this situation. And recent advances in diagnostics and drug research have led to safer options for treatment of LTBI. However, levels of uptake of these innovations vary widely across the world.

The most recent Global TB Report informed us of the alarming figure that over a third of people with TB do not access quality care.

And only one in four people with multidrug-resistant TB are put on treatment. Clearly, there are access barriers that need to be studied to optimize control programmes.

In Lagos, Nigeria, as part of activities to commemorate TB Day, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Tuberculosis Control implementing Partners is organizing awareness and sensitization walk as well as a medical outreach.

According to the State TB, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Programme Manager, Dr. Daniel Sokoya, the awareness and sensitization walk which would be flagged off by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Titilayo Goncalves is scheduled to take off at the Igando-Ikotun local government secretariat at 9.00am on Monday March 25.

He said, “There will also be a medical outreach and screening programme immediately after the awareness walk at Palace way, Ikotun where officials of the Ministry and TB implementing partners will screen residents and enlighten them on precautionary measures to adopt to prevent contracting the disease”, Sokoya added.

He explained that the theme “It’s Time” focuses on building commitment to end TB, not only at the political level with Heads of State and Ministers of Health, but at all levels from Governors, parliamentarians and Community leaders, to people affected with TB, civil society advocates, private corporate organizations, health workers, doctors, nurses, NGOs and individuals.

“The theme is reminding us to act now!,  we must achieve the end TB targets of reducing TB deaths by 95%, cutting down new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035, and ensure that no family is burdened with catastrophic expenses due to TB”, said Sokoya.

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