25 March 2019

Zambia: Govt Launches TB Preventive Therapy Guidelines During the World TB Day Commemoration

The Ministry of Health launched the guidelines for Management of Latent Tuberculosis (TB) Infection during the 2019 World TB Day commemoration to strengthen the treatment of the disease at primary care level. The guidelines are meant to contribute to further reduction of TB cases in the country and support efforts towards its elimination. Although TB is preventable and curable, it has continued to be a major cause of ill-health and death in the country. The disease is also the commonest opportunistic infection among people living with HIV. Zambia joined the rest of the world to rededicate its efforts in tackling TB under the theme "Its Time: Kick out TB". The focus of the World TB campaign was on prevention, finding and treating all cases of TB.

Speaking at the World TB Day commemoration in Lusaka on 22nd March 2019, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kennedy Malama said that despite the availability of interventions to fight against TB, an estimated 25,000 cases of TB were not detected in the country and people continued to die. Dr. Malama emphasized the need for early detection and treatment because many people with TB were diagnosed late leading to treatment failures. He urged people to seek early diagnosis and treatment for TB and emphasised the need for those with HIV to receive TB prevention medicines. He said that following the resolution which was made at the UN high-level meeting on TB in September 2018 calling for an urgent global response to the fight against TB, there was need for all partners and stakeholders to work with the government to tackle TB. Dr. Malama presented awards to deserving institutions and individuals for outstanding contributions and excellence in the fight against TB.

The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita stated that the African Region was making impressive reductions in TB cases which were estimated to be 4% per year, placing it second among all WHO regions during the period between 2013 and 2017. He said that although the disease burden was falling globally, it was not fast enough to reach the first milestones of the end TB strategy in 2020. Dr. Bakyaita also said that current levels of investment towards TB care and prevention needed to be increased in order to attain the sustainable development goals targets. He called for a strengthened multi-sectoral response within the context of a revitalized primary health care system, scale up of TB preventive treatment for high-risk populations and strengthened involvement of civil society organizations. He re-affirmed WHO's commitment to working with other partners to support government's efforts towards ending the TB epidemic.

At the same function, Ms Tamaryn Green, who is Miss South Africa, called upon all partners and stakeholders and communities to unite in the fight against TB. She echoed her key messages: "Anyone can get TB, TB is preventable, TB is curable, Let us unite to fight TB". Ms Green participated at the TB day commemoration as part of her Zambian tour to support TB community advocacy, awareness and sensitisation activities during the TB campaign week in the country.

The World TB Day campaign was officially launched by the Minister of Health on national television. The launch was preceded by satellite activities which involved community outreach and sensitization, radio and TV programmes, and sporting competitions with support from partners. Present at the function were senior officials from the Ministry of Health, Political leaders, representatives from multilateral and bilateral organisations, UN agencies, national and international Non- governmental organisations, community based organisations, schools, media institutions, Faith based organisations and the general public. The event also attracted organisations which were providing information on TB, TB and HIV testing services and other diseases, drama performances, song and dance.

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