The health ministry yesterday inaugurated a special committee to specifically oversee TB prevention and treatment after the ministry realisedt that contrary to what it estimated, over 100,000 people contracted the air-bone disease annually, but only 45,000 accessed treatment.
The national tuberculosis programme estimated that only about 60,000 Ugandans contracted the heavily opportunistic infection annually, and this was ‘acceptable’ because more than three quarters accessed treatment with an over 70% healing rate, but a survey funded by the Global Fund depicted an alarming picture.
Health minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said the new findings (from the 2015 Makerere University School of Public Health survey) mean “a significant number of patients who need TB treatment and care are not accessing it” and called on members of the special committee to work tirelessly to improve the state of affairs.
“It means (55,000) patients who contract TB aren’t reached and helped early enough. And we want to commit ourselves to end the disease by 2035,” said Aceng at the committee’s inauguration held at the ministry’s head office in Kampala.
With close to 1,080 cases (of the 100,000) expected to develop the complex and hard to treat multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB annually and 49% of MDR cases also co-infected with HIV, the survey results demanded a fast response from the ministry if it intended to shore-up and keep the situation under control.
Tuberculosis is such a devastating disease that thrives on a weakness in a patient’s immunity and is predominant in persons living with HIV, those who are severely malnourished or have other complications. But it can be prevented through immunization and treated with proper diagnosis and medication. Patients seem to cough a lot and experience shortness of breath.