Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor
STAKEHOLDERS involved in the fight against tuberculosis believe there is a need for concerted efforts from the government, community, and health funders if ever the country is to reduce the burden of TB.
Every 24th of March, the world commemorates World TB Day to raise awareness about the disease and efforts to end the global epidemic.
The theme for World TB Day 2023 is “Yes, we can end TB!” which aims to inspire hope, a message that some TB survivors believe is befitting as the country continues to make strides in ending TB.
TB Survivor Mr Stanley Sibanda noted, ‘‘I was diagnosed with HIV in 2005 then was put on ARVs. I was then diagnosed with TB in 2017 after I had fallen ill for a long time. I even consulted faith healers and prophets till I decided to get tested. Was put on treatment and I fully recovered.’’
TB Survivor Ms Shungu Luvera said, ‘‘TB can be cured, I am a living testimony and I urge all people out there to go and get tested if you have a persistent cough or if you suspect that you have TB don’t hesitate plus the treatment is free.’’
Dr Ronald Ncube, the Executive Director for The Union Zimbabwe Trust, an organisation working with the government in the fight against TB believes with the requisite support from stakeholders, the fight against TB can be won.
Dr Ncube noted, ‘‘Yes I believe as a country we have demonstrated the capacity to reduce the burden of TB, I think it’s great because of the effort that has been made over the years we have now been removed from the list of high burden countries for TB but of course, you realize that we also have a high burden of TB HIV and multidrug-resistant TB so we believe with our collective resolve as a country with funders, key stakeholders, communities and government I believe we can stand shoulder to shoulder to fight and make sure by 2030 we end the pandemic of TB.
‘‘Our biggest challenge is the high burden of HIV and TB co-infection where half of our TB patients also have HIV, we also have an emerging burden of drug-resistant TB so we really need to be more focused in making sure that our innovations address platforms that strengthen TB HIV collaboration as well as interventions that reduce the burden of drug-resistant TB. Finding those cases early putting them on treatment, and making sure that those TB patients are supported with adherence to make sure that they finish their treatment. If we do this well we definitely can reduce the burden and end TB.’’
TB remains a public health emergency, with 30 000 people falling ill and more than 4 000 lives being lost each day globally despite it being both preventable and curable.
In Zimbabwe, over 16 000 TB cases were diagnosed in 2021 from an estimated 30 000 incident cases, translating to a treatment coverage of 54 percent.