- As the world commemorates World Tuberculosis Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for the rigorous implementation of the STOP TB Strategy in Africa to significantly improve case detection and treatment outcomes.
According to the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, a number of the countries in the African Region have the highest TB rates in the world, although the African Region only constitutes 10 percent of the world population.
“Nine out of the twenty-two most affected countries worldwide, accounting for 80 percent of the global TB burden, are in the African region,” the director said.
He urged African states to implement the Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course (DOTS), saying it has proven to be a success story in a number of countries that had adhered to the programme.
“I therefore, call upon all countries to implement the STOP TB strategy in its entirety” Dr Sambo said in his message to mark World TB Day observed worldwide.
He expressed concern over the emergence of Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) saying the TB treatment has become too expensive for poor economies of Africa, further adding that providing quality care to prevent the emergence of drug resistant TB is crucial.
Meanwhile, the 2009 global TB control report also reveals death rates among TB patients with HIV has doubled since 2007, with an estimate of at least one in four TB death said to be related to HIV.
In 2007, there were an estimated 1.37 million new cases of tuberculosis among HIV-infected people and 456 000 deaths. This figure reflects an improvement in the quality of the country data, which are now more representative and available from more countries than in previous years, the report said.
Director-General of WHO Dr Margaret Chan said the findings point to an urgent need to find, prevent and treat tuberculosis in people living with HIV and to test for HIV in all patients with TB in order to provide prevention, treatment and care.
“Countries can only do that through stronger collaborative programmes and stronger health systems that address both diseases," she said.
The report further points out that co-infection remains a major challenge and more efforts are needed to spot and treat the two conditions in tandem. “HIV and tuberculosis services must be joined up if we are to achieve global disease control,” warn disease experts.
The current financial crisis also threatens to derail efforts by governments and international organisation has economic crunch will result to reduced financing of TB programmes.
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