Targeted TB Screening Effective For Vulnerable Communities

THE targeted screening for active Tuberculosis (TB) among high risk groups, being spearheaded by the Ministry of health and Child Care’s National TB Program in partnership with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) bears fruits at community level.

By Michael Gwarisa

The National TB Program has partnered with The Union in intensifying active case finding for TB by targeting high risk groups and communities around the country. The initiative is being co-funded by Global Fund and USAID’s Challenge TB.

In an interview with HealthTimes, The Union Zimbabwe Country director Dr Christopher Zishiri said they had intensified the targeted screening efforts especially for high risk groups.

“These groups include artisanal miners, miners/ex-miners and the mining communities, people living with HIV, diabetics, children under the age of five, the elderly and health care workers.  Every year, priority districts are identified and the outreach teams visit the districts to offer services such as TB-HIV-Diabetes screening,” said Dr Zishiri.

He added that there is a mobile truck equipped with a digital chest x-ray which is used for screening people for TB and currently they were on a widespread screening campaign in Matabeleland offering FREE TB-Diabetes-HIV and other medical services with areas such as Hwange, Umguza and Bulilima District, having already been reached.  Other districts to be visited by the outreach team this year include Insiza, Mberengwa, Mwenezi, Zaka, Gutu, Buhera, Makoni, Nyanga, Mutare Rural, Chipinge, Centenary, Mbire, Guruve, Mt Darwin and Shamva.

“All people that are found to have TB or Diabetics or those that test positive for HIV are immediately linked to care at their nearest health facilities. The Community TB based screening programme has reduced the burden of access to care for some of these targeted populations as services are brought within their vicinity.”

The initiative started in 2016 and has been on-going ever since. Districts are prioritized based on the presence of high risk groups in the areas who are prioritized for this intervention.

Dr Zishiri however urged communities to seek TB treatment early when they have symptoms suggestive of TB as well as adhere to treatment as advised by the health care provider.

“Should you stay or be in close contact with a person diagnosed with TB, make sure you are also screened for TB. TB can be treated successfully, especially when diagnosed early,” said Dr Zishiri.

Speaking to HealthTimes, Deputy Director AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr Charles Sandy applauded the targeted TB screening saying it eliminates barriers to accessing health services which include long distances, high transport fares, low disposable income among others.

“The targeted screening in the community will contribute towards improving case detection because it removes one key challenge of TB early case finding of access to the service.

“This eliminates access to care services related to geographic and financial barriers for most of the communities because the service is being taken to them and no user fees are charged,” said Dr Sandy.



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