Malawi aims at ‘zero tuberculosis deaths’

Malawi government through the National TB Control Programme says it is aiming at achieving “zero TB deaths” through various new initiatives

Ministry of Health said in a statement to mark the World Tuberculosis Day, falling on March 24 each year, that the commemoration is an opportunity to raise awareness about the burden of tuberculosis and the status of tuberculosis prevention and control efforts.

The statement signed by Charles Mwansambo, Secretary for Health, observed that Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV in sub-Sahara Africa.

More than 1,000 people infected with HIV die every day from tuberculosis. In Malawi, 64 percent of TB patients are also infected with HIV. Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS constitute a deadly combination that speeds the progression of illness and death.

Mwansambo: Zero TB deaths
Mwansambo: Zero TB deaths

“Nothing makes a person more vulnerable to developing TB disease than the presence of HIV,” said the statement made available to Nyasa Times.

The statement also indicates that in Malawi, tuberculosis is still a big public health problem affecting mainly the highly productive age group of 15 to 49 years, but indicated that it is pleasing to note however, that tuberculosis is preventable and curable.

“The Ministry of Health, with support from all its partners has set itself an ambitious target of creating a TB-free Malawi by the year 2016. To achieve this, among other interventions, the country is decentralising TB services to increase accessibility to TB diagnosis and treatment.

“Since Malawi started implementing the Directly-Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) strategy, case notification increased steadily from 1995 until 2003 when it reached its peak of 28,000 people
diagnosed with tuberculosis. We have since observed a steady decrease and in 2012, 20,000 TB cases were reported,” the statement reads.

The Health Ministry stated death rate that has also decreased from 20 percent in 2003 to 7 percent in 2011 saying these successes are the result of sustained implementation of evidence-based interventions by the Government of Malawi, working in collaboration with local and international partners.

“In 2013, we enter the second year of the two-year ‘stop TB in my lifetime’ World TB Day campaign.

“This campaign calls for zero TB deaths because every day 4,000 people lose lives to TB globally and
yet it is curable at low-cost,” indicated the statement.

The Ministry however said that this year’s slogan “Stop TB in my lifetime” allows people all over the world to make an individual call to stop TB in their lifetime.

It further called on all Malawians and partners to make voices be heard on the expectations of TB-free country where zero deaths from TB, faster treatment, a quick, cheap and low technology test, an effective vaccine and a world free of TB among others are all possible.

The Ministry of Health further reminded the public that TB is curable; citing all those with a cough of two weeks or more to seek early diagnosis of TB and that TB patients should take all the prescribed TB drugs as scheduled and for the whole duration of treatment to avoid more serious form of TB.

“To prevent spread of tuberculosis, it is important always to cover the mouth and when coughing and sneezing, all children under the age of six should be screened for TB if a family member or anybody from within the same household has TB and nobody should be stigmatized on
the grounds that they have TB whether in our families or communities,” concludes the statement.

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