THE Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) National Tuberculosis (TB) programme will soon be unveiling a fleet of new Mobile X-Ray vehicles in a move that is set to increase TB case finding and also ensure that those are screened and tested will be linked to care.
By Michael Gwarisa
The mobile X-Ray vehicles will be distributed across nine provinces in Zimbabwe where they will be conducting targeted screening for active Tuberculosis (TB) among high risk groups, and the program will be spearheaded by the Ministry of health and Child Care (MoHCC) through support from partners to the National TB Program such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), The Global Fund, PEPFAR, The Union Zimbabwe among others.
In an interview with HealthTimes, World Health Organisation (WHO)Zimbabwe Technical Officer for TB and HIV, Dr Mkhokeli Ngwenya said to date, a total of 9 (nine) trucks have been procured, with the mostrecent consignment of 5 (five) in 2021.
In 2019, Zimbabwe missed an estimated 29% of TB cases, mostly amongst hard to reach and high risk groups. Due to COVID 19, in 2020 the country recorded a decline of 27% in all TB cases detected.
“These mobile trucks are an opportunity to detect these missed TB cases and initiate them on treatment, increasing treatment coverage and reducing undesirable TB outcomes. This will ultimately contribute to reduced morbidity and mortality from TB, accelerating progress towards ending TB in 2030,” said Dr Nwenya.
He added that apart from offering TB screening and TB services, a number of other services that will be offered in the mobile vehicles include X-Ray and symptom screening for TB amongst high risk groups, HIV counselling and testing, COVID 19 testing, diabetes screening and testing, screening for hypertension, screening for common cancers, lifestyle modification advice, commencement on TB treatment, commencement on HIV treatment commencement on TB preventive therapy and all those screened and tested will be appropriately linked to care.
The mobile trucks are equipped with a digital chest x-ray which is used for screening people for TB.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has since been removed from the top 8 countries in Africa on world’s top 30 list of countries with triple burdened with TB, TB/HIV. Zimbabwe is now double burdened with MDR-TB and TB/HIV. Treatment coverage was 72% in 2019, decreasing from 83% in 2018. An estimated 6,160 cases were missed in 2019. However, males bear the brunt of disease burden, particularly the economically productive 25 – 44-year age category.
Speaking during a Meeting with TB survivors in Kadoma, Ministry of Health National TB Programme Communications Officer, Mr Andrew Nyambo said even though the National TB program was facing challenges, they have recorded some positives over the years.
“Transportation of specimen is still an issue. We also have a lot of people who are supposed to the contact traced and are not. The healthcare system itself is facing challenges. In terms of case finding, that is the number of notified cases of all forms of TB (i.e. bacteriologically confirmed + clinically diagnosed), new and relapse cases, our target was 5946 but we managed to do 3600 (61%) in 2020.
“However, the percentage of new and relapse TB patients tested using WHO recommended rapid tests at the time of diagnosis our target was 89% but we have now 100%. Every sputum for diagnosis is done by the expert machine that is why you see us at 100%,” said Mr Nyambo.
The number of notified TB cases (all forms) contributed by non-national TB program providers – community referrals, the target was 714 (12%) but we achieved 368 (52%).