The Ministry of Health has urged Rwandans to undertake screening for tuberculosis at the earliest opportunity, in order to get early treatment and reduce chances of acquiring preventable deaths associated with the disease.
Officials were speaking in Kamonyi District in Rukomo Sector, on the occasion of celebrating World Tuberculosis Day that was observed on March 22.
Dr Jeannine Condo, Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said that though much has been done, there is still a long way to go to achieve the set target of reducing TB-related deaths by 90% and new incidence by 80% by 2035.
"We still have 20% of TB patients who don't go to hospital for treatment and they end up infecting others in their communities. We still have TB patients who don't take their drugs as prescribed, and they don't heal," she said.
Dr Jules Mugabo, representing World Health Organisation, commended the effort by government to eradicate TB but added that this was also a time to reflect on what can be done to reach targets set on the global and national level.
TB in children
"More efforts are needed in TB screening, testing and treating among children. There is need to increase budgetary allocation to take care of TB patients in order to eradicate it. Besides, more modern machines to screen and test for TB have to be decentralised to health centres," he said.
World Health Organisation will assist government in implementing these programmes, he said.
Patrick Migambi, the Manager of Tuberculosis Division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said every year, around 6,000 people test positive for TB and 99% among them start immediate treatment.
About 88% of those under treatment heal while 8 per cent of them die. Up to 3% of them do not heal, and they are put under new treatment, while two per cent don't undergo treatment at all.
TB prevalence is higher among children under 15 because of their weak immune system; it is also high among prisoners and the elderly, he said.
After two weeks of treatment, a TB patient ceases to be infectious, but this does not mean that someone has healed.
Jean d'Amour Uwimana, a resident of Kamonyi, suffered Tuberculosis when he was a taxi moto rider in Kigali. He had cough for two weeks and after, he started to have high fever.
He searched for medication from pharmacies but things got worse, he was getting weaker by the day and he decided to return to Kamonyi, because he could no longer work.
"When I got home, my relatives and neighbours said I had been poisoned while others would gossip around the village that I had HIV. I was too weak to even go to the health centre for checkup," he said.
He weighed 40 kilogrammes, down from 60. One day, a Community Health Worker in his village checked on him at home and encouraged him to go to the hospital the following day.
"We went together to Kamonyi Health Centre and they first tested me for HIV and the result was negative, then they tested for TB. After two days, they called the CHW to tell her that the result was positive," he said.
He said that he took medication according to prescription and now he is healed.
"I'm very grateful to the CHW who helped me during this hard time of sickness, to the Government of Rwanda, which made TB treatment available and free, as well as the health workers who take care of patients every day," he said.
"I would advise all people with symptoms like prolonged cough to go to hospital, you never know it could be TB. It is dangerous but the good news is that it is treatable," he said.
Tuberculosis is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide, and since 2011, it has been the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent ranking above HIV/AIDS.
Most of these deaths could be prevented with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Treatment success rate globally is at 82 per cent.