On March 24, the world observed the World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. The major reason for recognising such a day is to make the public more aware of the deadly epidemic, especially, since it teemed up with HIV/ Aids to make a terrible two-some, which is difficult to fight and overcome.
This year’s theme was; "I Am Stopping TB". The World Health Organisation and other partner organisations are working hard to reduce TB prevalence rates and deaths by half in 2015. This can be realised through ensuring that all TB patients, including those co-infected with HIV and those with drug-resistant TB, benefit from universal access to high-quality diagnosis and patient-centered treatment, as put by most scientists.
There might be a need to combine therapies that are friendlier in every sense, as to handle cases where the diseased, suffers from both TB and HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS victims contribute 37 percent of the TB patients in the country. Unfortunately, a big percentage of the people, are infected through careless means like closeness between the infected and uninfected.
TB control efforts have been strongly hampered by the rising of HIV/AIDS pandemic. As a result TB has now been declared an emergency by the Ministry of Health in Rwanda.
Furthermore there are a number of other reasons that has led to the prevalent of TB in Rwanda; "delayed tests and misuse of medicine by TB patients has made it difficult to control its spread. The disease is becoming a great threat to the country", Dr. Michael Gasana, Director of TB department in the Ministry of Health says.
TB is a threat because of its nature and the fact that it attacks some of the most important parts of the body. The main body part that is mostly affected by TB is the lungs but any other part of the body such as brains, kidneys and the bladder can be affected.
Gasana continues to say that, the majority of the TB patients are HIV positive. HIV/AIDS has thus increased the number of people suffering from TB. HIV/AIDS victims are more exposed to other diseases including TB. The disease is highly opportunistic.
The worry behind the double folded problem is the increasing occurrence of multiple drug resistant TB and HIV cases, which is likely to further the worsening of both HIV and TB treatment efforts.
Gasana explains that; "the ministry of health has put one stop-service, where some one who comes to test for TB, is also given an HIV test by the medical personnel. It is in this way that we have been able to know the trend. The recent statistics in the Ministry of Health show that Rwanda has had TB cases increased by about 20 percent. People delay to go for medical check-up and keep spreading the disease among family members, making the disease a family problem and generally increase it, in the community", he confirms.
It should be remembered, with great concern that, despite the fact that TB has been threatening humanity for long, it is still treated by the same medicine for the last 40 years.
Nonetheless, the Rwandan government through the ministry of health is living no stone unturned in the fight against the pandemic.
"Every one should be part of the efforts to curb the problem. We ask every one to play a role in stopping the increase of infection. There are trained personnel from sector level to district level, who have to raise awareness about the disease and send suspects of the disease to hospitals for check-ups.
Testing as well as treating the sick, should be as fast as possible.
Teachers should also tell their students about the disease and encourage those who are coughing to go for a test.
Those who are sick should go for a check-up and those found sick, should take the medicine as required immediately." Ntawukuliryayo, the minister of health remarked.
Rwanda in its desperate effort to fight the spread of the diseases has banned the traditional use of straws while drinking local beer. The traditional way of drinking local beer in Rwanda, like in many parts of its neighbours, is through sharing straws/tubes. They have sucking tubes that they use in turn, and this kind of sharing undoubtedly spread TB.
People have been nevertheless adamant to stop the practice. This resistance to changes that are meant to check the epidemic causes a lot of worry.
Despite all the challenges, Rwanda has recorded a relatively notable success in the fight against Tuberculosis (TB) in Africa.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the TB control report indicates that Rwanda, Kenya and Malawi are the foremost African countries scaling down the killer disease.
"It is rational to be on top in the fight against TB, given that at least 80 percent of TB patients in Rwanda, now access treatment in time" says the minister.
All African countries need to do better in the efforts to fight the diseases. They hence need the collaboration of the population so as to make health issues easy to handle.
Efforts to attain universal access to TB prevention, care, treatment and impact mitigation would be in vain if people don’t go for the treatment and take it as prescribed by the medical personnel.
There should not be a gap between policies and the implementation of the policies, especially at the main care level. This will pave way for the country to be fundamentally concerned with the poor and the marginalised communities who are more vulnerable to disease transmission and where the impact is greater.
And on the other hand, since the supply of the medication is free to the people suffering from TB, there should not be any excuse.
Let every one have a responsibility of disseminating information to people about this highly contagious respiratory disease, and also step up the campaign for individual efforts to save oneself and others.
Good hygienic practices should always be emphasised all round, for they are the best preventive measure known to man.