Economic Challenges Derail National TB Response

THE country’s continued woes are taking the National Tuberculosis (TB) response off rails as many people are failing to access TB screening and testing services, resulting in them presenting late at health facilities.

By Patricia Mashiri

The country has been recently removed from the TB high burden risk country but it however remains one of the country with high TB drug resistance.

Speaking during a TB media café, Mrs Edna Masiyiwa, Director Women Action Group (WAG) said lack of funding was one of the problems why people get late diagnosis or might not might not help at all.

We also talk of the hidden cost to TB treatment because we can talk about the Global Fund which is funding the treatment it is also looking at supplementary drugs for those with drug resistant TB But for someone to be diagnosed they need to go to the hospital,but at times we are not considering this cost they are a barrier because for someone to ride a bus to get to a testing center we also need to consider those costs.

“ We call up our government as they do work around TB  that they also should be in a position to also support or fund those hidden costs we normally don’t speak of which are made before a diagnosis, Mrs Masiyiwa said

She added some of the hidden costs include transport fares to get to the testing center and usually the frequent visits to get tests results may end up straining their finances.

Meanwhile, Abigail Nhapi, a representative from Zimbabwe National Network of People living with HIV (ZNNP+) said most TB patients were not completing their TB treatment because of lack of food.

“TB treatment requires one to eat a lot of food but then with our economic situation, everyone including PLHIV are finding it hard to put food on the table. This is one of the major challenges people are facing. People on HIV and TB treatment end up not completing treatment because most of the times they will no food. We are working closely with other stakeholders such as social development that we improve nutrition so that all TB patients will be able to adhere and finish their treatment,” Nhapi said.

She also mentioned that there is an information gap particularly when  talking about TB prevention especially on TB preventive therapy. PLHIV are vulnerable to TB because of their already weakened system and there is demand for PLHIV to get TB preventive therapy.

Research shows that TB thrives where there is low immunity and therefore when someone has HIV their probability of getting TB is high.

Meanwhile, Dr Ronald Ncube, the Executive Director, the  Union Zimbabwe Trust said the risk  of getting TB as an HIV positive individual was high.

“The annual risk of you getting TB if you have HIV is 10% but the life time risk if you don’t have HIV is 10% but of course with ARVs, if one is adhering and the viral load is suppressed the risk becomes lower,” he said.

The 2021 Global TB report shows that the COVID-19 reduced TB gains. Incidents rate despite COVID-19 decreased whilst mortality rate increased.





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