The World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo says expanded coverage of antiretroviral therapy has led to a fast decline in HIV/AIDS-related and Tuberculosis cases and deaths.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said this in her message to commemorate the World TB Day.
The World TB Day that is globally celebrated on March 24 is themed: “It is time,” this year because we all need to accelerate action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target to end TB epidemics by 2030.
Moeti said in the African Region, new TB cases and deaths are declining, adding: “Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are recording some of the fastest declines in the world in TB cases.
“In 2018, four out of five (80.2 per cent) people with multidrug-resistant or extremely drug-resistant TB were started on treatment.
“Although the Region is making progress, we are not on track to achieve the 2030 SDG target related to TB.
“There continues to be new TB cases in the African Region, than in any other WHO region.”
According to Moeti, only one in two people with TB (56 per cent) across the continent are on treatment.
The director said less than one in three children (29 per cent) living with someone with confirmed active TB is on preventive therapy.
She said: “TB control budgets are chronically underfunded, and most countries do not have information on families facing catastrophic costs due to TB.
“This is needed so as to track the progress towards the SDG targets.”
Moeti said WHO was working with partners to train health workers in TB prevention and care, adding that this was helping the organization to reach high-risk groups and ensure best practices are applied.
She said: “In collaboration with programmes on HIV, maternal and child health, and non-communicable diseases, we are strengthening screening for people at higher risk of TB such as children, people living with HIV and those with diabetes.
“We have worked with all countries to adopt the use of sensitive diagnostic technologies at the policy level. Increased innovative investment is now needed to make these technologies the first-line of diagnosis for all presumptive TB cases.
“To monitor progress across the Region, we conduct annual programme reviews and have developed a continental score card in collaboration with the African Union.
“Linked to this, we are advocating for collecting information on households experiencing catastrophic costs due to TB.
“Building on the gains we have collectively made, it is now time for bold action to achieve our targets.
“It is time for governments to increase domestic investments in TB, and to strengthen regulatory environment to facilitate importation, monitoring and use of quality products.
“It is time for healthcare providers to implement minimum standard of care in line with WHO recommendations on diagnostics, treatment regimens and preventive therapy for high-risk groups.
“It is time for governments to position TB as it requires broader action, beyond the health sector.
“We must engage other ministries, parliamentarians, community leaders, researchers, academic institutions, patient advocacy groups and people affected by TB. Multi-sectoral action is needed to ensure universal access to services.
“It is time for governments and partners to work together in addressing risk factors for TB such as overcrowded living environments, high-risk occupations such as mining and healthcare workers, and co-morbidities such as HIV, diabetes, and malnutrition in children.
“Ultimately, to end epidemics of TB and other diseases, we need strong health systems as the bedrock of universal health coverage.
“For Africa to be free of TB, let’s work together to bring quality diagnostics, treatment and follow-up closer to communities, ensuring that no-one is left behind.”