Zim makes strides in TB fight

ZIMBABWE continues to record positive strides in the fight against the deadly Tuberculosis disease with the estimated incidence rate going down from 242 per 100 000 in 2015 to 204 per 100 000 in 2022

Yesterday the country held the World TB Day national commemorations in Bubi District, Matabeleland North province where Health and Child Care Deputy Minister, Sleiman Kwidini, reiterated Government’s commitment towards eradicating the disease by 2030. 

With the Second Republic taking bold steps in scaling up preventive measures and giving hope to those already infected, the Deputy Minister said Zimbabwe has made significant progress in reducing the burden as observed by the decline in the incidence rate. 

“We are pleased to have developed a TB Preventive Therapy Acceleration Plan that is anchored on the adoption of the latest guidelines and innovations including shorter regimens.

“This is to ensure that all those among us who are living with HIV, as well as those who come into contact with people diagnosed with TB do take TB prevention treatment,” said the Deputy Minister.

Each year on March 24 communities across Zimbabwe join the world to raise awareness about the devastating impact of TB and to honour those who lost their lives to the disease.

During the event, health workers, activists and volunteers joined forces, fanning out across the community to spread knowledge about TB symptoms, transmission and treatment.

The theme of World TB Day 2024 — a continuation of last year’s “Yes! We Can End TB” — conveys the urgent need to invest resources to ramp up the fight against TB and achieve the commitments to end the disease made by global leaders. 

“This is, especially, critical in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has put our ‘End TB’ progress at risk. The effect of Covid-19 on TB control is undeniable and continues to linger, but Zimbabwe has demonstrated resilience and was part of the countries that contributed to the global shift towards recovery of TB programming from Covid in 2022,” said Deputy Minister  Kwidini. 

He said Zimbabwe continues to suffer the scourge of drug-resistant TB (DR-TB), which is Tuberculosis that does not respond to the first-line medicines used to treat TB). 

“Previously this DRTB required long periods of treatment of up to two years, now as a country we have introduced an injection-free six-month treatment regimen as the preferred treatment for all patients with DRTB.

“As part of our commendable efforts we have expanded our TB diagnostic network through the deployment of 20 portable battery-powered diagnostic machines for those areas without electricity and 180 GeneXpert machines,” said the Deputy Minister. 

“There has been a rapid scale-up of molecular tests with all presumptive TB patients accessing this test. The country is pursuing innovative community and facility-based systematic screening approaches for priority groups such as children, miners, TB contacts, people living with HIV and people with diabetes. In 2022, about 15 percent of the notified TB cases were referred by the community for TB services.” 

According to the National Patient Cost Survey for TB patients and their households that was carried out in 2018, about 80 percent of TB-affected households suffer catastrophic costs due to TB. 

To cope with the costs of treatment, households with TB patients according to the same survey were forced to borrow money, sell their assets, or do both, said the Deputy Minister. 

To ensure that TB services are brought close to where people live, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) has been implementing targeted screening for active TB (TaS4TB) to detect missed TB cases amongst high-risk and hard-to-reach populations in Zimbabwe since 2014. 

“We have since deployed mobile X-ray trucks equipped with a laboratory.”

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