Civil Society Organisations in Rwanda have been called on to play an active role in raising awareness among the population as well as identifying cases of tuberculosis and encouraging people to seek treatment.
A new study conducted by Health Development Initiative (HDI) supported by United Nations Programme of HIV/AIDS indicates that civil society groups are playing a minimal role in efforts to eradicate one of the leading causes of death among people living with HIV/AIDS.
Despite scaled up efforts by the Government to tackle both TB and HIV/AIDS infections, the study conducted by HDI in three districts of Muhanga, Gasabo and Bugesera shows that TB screening and detection rates remain low in local communities.
According to Dr. Aflodis Kagaba, the Executive Director of HDI, the civil society can, together with various initiatives by the National Programme for the Fight TB and Leprosy (PNLIT), play an active role in mobilising and encouraging people to test and treat.
“We want to initiate the Civil Society to be part of this fight to detect, prevent and treat TB cases. We want them to reach out to the people within their communities and encourage them to test for TB and get treatment,”
“There is a big gap still existing when it comes to detection, care and treatment of TB, especially amongst people living with HIV/AIDS. So, we will empower the civil society through several trainings to help us fill this gap,” Dr. Kagaba said.
During a meeting yesterday to present the findings of the rapid situation analysis conducted in the three districts to members of the civil society, it was observed that new TB infections continue to be registered, even in cases where they could have been avoided.
It was recommended that members of civil society and community-based health workers be equipped with the necessary training to help them raise awareness from the communities they operate from, and encourage people to test and treat.
According to Dr. Grace Mutembayire from PNILT, as a way to motivate community health workers to support the fight against TB, a reward of of Rwf 27,000 has been put aside for each community health volunteer who identifies and brings a TB patient for treatment.
The money is part of a pool of funds put in place by the government and the Global Fund to fight TB. She noted that the initiative which began earlier this year is paying off.
Dr. Mutembayire said that the role of the civil society is indeed not felt but stressed that the country is on course to meet the targets set by the UN to eliminate TB and treat all TB cases. Over 84 percent of diagnosed cases of TB get treated, she said.
On behalf of the UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Dieudonne Ruturwa, the Social Mobilisation Adviser at UNAIDS Rwanda, said that the UN’s vision is to reach rates of zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS deaths and zero stigma and discrimination.
“As UNAIDS, we are happy to see that integration and collaboration between HIV and TB programmes is bearing fruit,”
“The tools are now available to prevent many of these deaths, a faster more accurate TB test has been developed and access to antiretroviral therapy has been improved,” Ruturwa said.