Today, 24th of March 2013, is World Tuberculosis Day. It is a day when the whole world is reminded about the suffering that Tuberculosis (TB) continues to exert on people although effective control measures are available. This year’s slogan for World TB Day is “Stop TB in my lifetime”.
TB remains a major public health problem in the African region which accounted for over 26% of notified TB cases globally in 2011. It is estimated that, TB killed over half a million people in the African Region and only 62% of existing TB cases were detected in that year. The situation is further worsened by the threat of drug-resistant TB and multi-drug resistant TB which continue to be serious problems complicating TB treatment.
It should be noted that the TB epidemic in Africa is largely driven by factors related to poverty and the negative effects of TB and HIV co-infection. People living with HIV are more likely than others to become sick with TB. According to the Global Tuberculosis Report of 2012, 46% of those who had TB in 2011 were HIV positive and sadly, only 46% of them received the WHO recommended anti-retroviral treatment.
On a positive note, over the last five years, African countries have been increasingly using new rapid TB detection methods which significantly reduce diagnostic delays and increase the detection of TB cases. As a result, the rising trend of TB cases has been halted as treatment success rate improves. Equally the death rate as well as the number of people who fail to complete their TB treatment continues to decline.
In spite of these achievements, there is no place for complacency and I would therefore like to stress the importance of early diagnosis as the most effective way of preventing the spread of TB. Anyone with persistent cough for more than two weeks is advised to seek medical attention.
Stopping TB in our lifetime will require governments and development partners to increase and sustain political and financial commitments for TB control. This is vital to ensure that everyone has access to TB prevention and treatment services in all countries of the region. Strong strategic partnerships between governments, communities, bilateral and multilateral organisations, and the private sector are essential to control the scourge of TB.
Together, let us join forces to Stop TB in our lifetime.