World TB Day 2015
Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s deadliest communicable diseases. In 2013, an estimated nine million people developed tuberculosis (TB) and 1.5 million died from the disease, 360,000 of whom were HIV-positive. TB is slowly declining each year and it is estimated that 37 million lives were saved between 2000 and 2013 through effective diagnosis and treatment.
Despite these gains, countries in Africa still have unmet needs that are hindering full realisation of TB control, particularly in diagnosing, treating and identifying all TB cases. Indeed, only about half of TB cases are detected and thousands of patients do not complete their treatment fully, leading to more contamination, development of resistance and death.
The focus now is on the post-2015 Global TB strategy, which aims to reduce TB deaths by 95 per cent, to cut new cases by 90 per cent between 2015 and 2035, and to ensure that no family is burdened with huge expenses due to TB. The strategy emphasises three key areas: integrated patient-centred care and prevention; bold policies and supportive systems; and intensified research and innovations.
As Africa’s leading health development organisation aiming at lasting health change within African communities, Amref Health Africa joins the Global TB Community in calling for increased efforts to reach, treat and cure every TB patient.
Amref Health Africa finds innovative solutions to build the capacity of community and national health systems to diagnose, treat, and control TB through service improvement, training of health workers, direct support to TB patients, and efficient information and monitoring systems. Amref Health Africa also emphasises the integration of TB control with prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and with Maternal and Child Health, using a rights-based approach to health.
In Kenya, Amref Health Africa is the Principal Recipient of the Global Fund’s Round 9 tuberculosis grant and has partnered with several community-based and faith-based organisations, government ministries, universities, and other institutions to expand the quality of DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short-course) – the TB control strategy recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2014 the project trained 735 health care workers on screening, diagnostics and nutrition assessment for TB patients. In addition 3,679 Community Health Volunteers were trained; these volunteers reached 18,321 households of TB patients with health education and infection prevention messages. Suspected TB cases identified from screening of contacts within these households were referred for diagnosis, while 5,852 TB treatment “interrupters” were traced and brought back to continue with treatment.
In Ethiopia a partnership was formed between Amref Health Africa, WHO, the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health and the Afar Regional Health Bureau to increase TB detection and treatment in the pastoralist communities of Afar by integrating TB screening into malaria, HIV, and maternal and child health programmes.
With the opportunity created by the new Global TB Strategy, Amref Health Africa will continue to strongly advocate for more resources to accelerate TB interventions, in particular at community level, and to create synergy with existing programmes. Emphasis will also be on investing in operational research whose findings can translate into policy and practice to improve detection and treatment of TB, bringing us closer to the vision of lasting health change in Africa.