Experts blame TB prevalence on laxity

Tuberculosis (TB) is prevalent in the country because of citizens’ reluctance to go for routine screening, the Ministry of Health has said.
 A lab technician screens for MDR TB at Gicumbi hospital, Nothern Province recently. (Ivan Ngoboka)
A lab technician screens for MDR TB at Gicumbi hospital, Nothern Province recently. (Ivan Ngoboka)

Tuberculosis (TB) is prevalent in the country because of citizens’ reluctance to go for routine screening, the Ministry of Health has said.

Addressing journalists yesterday, as part of the activities to mark the World TB Day, Dr Grace Mutembayire, the Director of TB Care and Treatment at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), said that many people, even after contracting the disease, do not adhere to medication as prescribed.

World TB Day will be marked tomorrow under the theme; “Screening, and Treatment for Everyone” with a national level event in Nyabihu District.

TB cases have been reducing over the years, falling from 8,000 in 2005 to the current 6,000 cases. However, this is still way above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) target of 89 out of every 100,000 people, according to Mutembayire.

Mutembayire said that five per cent of people living with tuberculosis die, which she said should not be happening since the disease is curable.

A person with HIV has 40 per cent chance of catching TB, because of a broken immune system,” she said.

For a long time, the country has relied on microscopes to screen the disease. However, these have been found inefficient, especially with multi-drug resistant TB, which led government to acquire the 16 GeneXpert (high T.B sensitivity) machines. The plan is to have every district hospital given one, according to Dr Michel Gasana, the head of TB Division at RBC.

RBC officials say that drugs for ordinary TB go for as little as $30 for the usual six months treatment, and that those for multi-drug resistant TB go for as much as $3,000, for the two year treatment.

“The good thing is that the treatment is covered by communal health insurance (Mutuelle de Sante), so it does not cause a lot of financial strain on the patient,” said Patrick Migambi, the director of TB prevention.

He added that there are measures in place to curb T.B spread in crowded environments like schools and prisons.

“We do not only screen every new prisoner but also investigate their background just in case they come from T.B stricken homes,” she said.

Global statistics

In 2013, nine million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million succumbed to the disease. Over 95 per cent of TB deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, and it is among the top five causes of death for women aged 15 to 44.

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