THE Ministry of Health and Care (MoHCC) has set targets to expand targeted community screening for Tuberculosis (TB) in high risk areas, amidst indications that the national treatment coverage rate is still very low, currently at 71 percent against a national target of 90 percent.
By Michael Gwarisa in Mangwe District
Through a program dubbed Targeted Screening for Active TB among High Risk groups which is funded by The Global Fund and USAID Challenge TB and is being implemented by The Union and FACT, the initiative identifies priority districts every year before dispatching an outreach team with trucks equipped with X-Ray machines and a laboratory for on spot TB screening and testing.
Speaking during the World TB Day commemorations in Mangwe district, Deputy Director HIV and TB Unit, Dr Charles Sandy said they were looking at increasing the fleet of outdoor X-Ray equipped vehicles to 10 to ensure every province is catered for.
“For us to reach that target of 90 percent treatment coverage rate, we have to expand and accelerate our efforts in improving awareness of TB. What are we doing to improve awareness and improving access.
“What we have done over the years is we have expanded diagnostics services and diagnostics capacity. We have introduced new technologies for diagnosis of TB but that is not enough. We want to bring the services of diagnosing TB closer to you our communities where we offer free services of identifying screening treatment and treatment initiatives on the spot.
“Whilst we have only four trucks at the moment, we want to expand to have at least one truck in each of the 10 provinces of the country so that we are able to make sure you get the service you need on time,” said Dr Sandy.
He added that the ministry of health vision is to end TB as a problem by the year 2030. Zimbabwe is one of the high burden TB countries of the world owing to poor awareness of what TB is and its signs and symptoms.
“Therefore as a ministry, we have come up with a national strategic plan. In the short term our plan is aiming to reach the global target which was set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for TB.
“The main measures of how successful we are in addressing TB is when we look at the accessibility of our services and people who are being diagnosed getting on treatment which is called the treatment coverage rate.”
He added that the fact that the treatment coverage rate is at 75 percent means that more people in Zimbabwe with TB are not getting diagnosis or treatment. The current comprehensive package of TB care include having an HIV test owing to the high HIV and TB dual infection issue. Zimbabwe aims to ensure 100 percent of all TB patients get tested for HIV, however statistics indicate that the coverage rate is currently at 95 percent.
Meanwhile, Mat South has the highest burden of HIV TB, HIV and Drug Resistant TB and highest TB death rates. The province has embarked on efforts to scale up pediatric TB screening and treatment to sure the burden goes down. However catastrophic costs continue to work against TB patients in the province.
Speaking on behalf of the minster of health, Dr Obadiah Moyo, minister of state for Matabeleland South, Honorable Abedico Ncube said TB is among the top five leading causes of mortality in Zimbabwe despite it being a completely curable disease whose impact needs to be reversed as a matter of urgency.
“Zimbabwe has made significant strides in reducing the overall burden of TB as observed from the decline in estimated incidence rate from a peak 617 per 100 000 in 2003 to a rate of 221 per 100 000 for 2017. Progress has similarly been noted on the mortality related to TB from a peak of 25 TB deaths per 100 000 in 2006 to 12 per 100 000 in 2017.
“Despite these tremendous achievements, there is need to further the implementation progress for our beautiful country to end TB. The total number of children diagnosed and initiated on treatment, 11 700. The total number of new cases of drug sensitive TB diagnosed and initiated on treatment 107, 900. Total number of drug resistant TB diagnosed and initiated on treatment 4 902,” said minister Ncube.