Health ministry launches one-week drive against TB

The Ministry of Health has launched a one-week sensitisation campaign against Tuberculosis (TB).

The Ministry of Health has launched a one-week sensitisation campaign against Tuberculosis (TB).

The exercise, from March 17 to 24, is part of activities to mark the World TB Day, scheduled for March 24.

Dr Michel Gasana, the head of TB division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), said various media platforms are involved in the awareness campaign themed: “Everybody should have access to proper TB screening and treatment.” 

“In Rwanda, 6,000 TB cases were registered countrywide in 2013. This campaign aims at reducing the figures,” Gasana told journalists on Wednesday in Kigali.

He said of the 6,000 cases, 2,000 of them are in Kigali alone. About 45,000 community-based health workers countrywide are involved in the campaign. They are operating in 500 hospitals and health centres across the country.

“The health workers are doing a great job. In 2013 alone, they detected and referred 48 per cent of the cases reported countrywide,” Gasana said.

According to a 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, about 8.6 million TB cases were reported worldwide, while  1.3 million people succumbed to the disease.

Of the almost nine million people who contract TB worldwide every year, a third of them lack access to medical care, according to the report.

 Gasana revealed that over $12m (about Rwf8b) is spent annually in the fight against TB  by the Ministry of Health.

He said the ministry had  acquired about 16 gene-xpert machines,  and other TB diagnostic tools which will reduce dependence on the  traditional method of using microscopes.

Innocent Habiyambere, the in-charge of Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR)–TB case at the Ministry of Health, said the ministry has made it mandatory for people with TB to test for HIV and vice-versa. He said the move aims at ensuring that people get  early treatment in case they are found to be HIV-positive.

“It’s easy for someone with HIV/Aids to catch TB, since the immunity system of the body is broken down. This is why the screening of the two goes hand-in-hand,”  Habiyambere noted.

Rwanda has 89.6 per cent of treated TB cases, well above the WHO target of 85 per cent.

However, late diagnosis and  failure   by patients to adhere to dosage instructions remains the biggest challenges.

Rosette Mukarurangwa, a resident of Bugesera District and former TB sufferer said the campaign is timely.   

“I suffered a terrible cough and general body weakness for two years. If  it was not for a neighbour who advised me to go for TB screening, perhaps I would have died,” she said.   

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