Lilongwe — Action Aidis facilitating the establishment of community sputum collection points (CSSPs) in the country as an intervention to reduce morbidity and mortality from Tuberculosis (TB).
The activity also includes training of the volunteers to work in their own communities.
The program aims at intensifying active and passive case finding, symptomatic house-to-house TB screening and strengthening community level treatment adherence support in all the country's districts.
Speaking during a field visit to Nkhamanga Health Centre in Dowa Friday, the district Environmental Health Officer (DEHO), Mavuto Thomas, said his office was working hand in hand with partners in reducing the spread of Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/Aids.
He said the district has strengthened community based structures as far as TB prevention and control is concerned by training volunteers in community sputum collection and establishment of sputum collection points.
"So, we are working with Catholic Health Commission with funding from Global Fund whereby we are implementing CSCPs in 10 of our 22 health facilities. About 290 volunteers were trained in TB detection using the CSCPs.
"These volunteers are also there to help us in monitoring side effects of drugs for people who are on TB treatment and tracing treatment defaulters besides assisting in early detection of TB cases," explained Thomas.
He said last year, the district had 697 sputum positive cases out of which 33 came from established sputum collection points. From July to September, there were 82 confirmed cases out of which eight came from sputum collection points.
The district environmental health officer applauded the role played by volunteers, saying they contribute a lot to the care for those that have been diagnosed with TB. He said they range from 5 to 10 percent of those tested.
According to Thomas, these could have been missed if they had followed the normal referral procedures (without use of sputum collection points) for health centres as the volunteers were able to make early TB detections at home and refer the concerned to health facilities.
"This is one way of reducing the burden of TB in our communities whereby if a person is found positive and put on drugs, we are sure that if they are taking them and follow the instructions from the clinician, the possibility to have good results is very high," he said.
Kondwani Mshali, Technician and Advocacy Coordinator for Action Aid said volunteers in Dowa had already done a lot in detecting TB patients among communities before they were actually trained in the intervention.
He said in early 2016, volunteers could only screen or refer to the clinic 1,000 people in six months, but the number increased to 10, 000 in 2017 in six months. At present, about 20, 000 people have been screened, according to Mshali.
Chairperson for Nkhamanga Sputum Collection Point, Martin Samson, said it was their wish to eradicate TB in communities.
"We are doing everything possible to make sure that TB is eradicated, we are asking the chiefs to also take lead in mobilizing communities that we are here to assist them on voluntary basis, though one cannot believe why we are collecting sputum voluntarily.
People around here have spoken different intimidating words but still we continue to do what we are doing," he said.
The program is carried out with technical support from the Ministry of Health, FPAM and Catholic Health Commission through Action Aid with financial assistance from Global Fund.