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Zimbabwe Struggles to Slow Mounting Incidence of Deadly Tuberculosis


Dr. Charles Sandy said his Health Ministry department is decentralizing care, especially in rural communities, and distributing motorcycles to ensure rural health staff can reach people who cannot get to hospitals.

The tuberculosis epidemic in Zimbabwe has become one of the worst in the world, according to international health consultant Population Services International.

The country registered the second highest number of deaths from the communicable disease, which in Zimbabwe is closely related to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Nearly 72,000 new cases were recorded in 2007, the most recent year for which data was available, for an incidence rate of 539 cases per 10,000 people.

The fight against TB has been hampered by limited access to diagnostic centers and the lack of quick, accurate tests, Population Services International said.

The World Health Organization has recommended that Zimbabwean health officials step up surveillance for HIV in tuberculosis cases, given the close link.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera told VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira that Zimbabwe is in the process of acquiring advanced equipment to help deal with the epidemic.

He said Zimbabwe is not yet diagnosing or treating drug-resistant tuberculosis as other countries in the region are doing for lack of the medical testing equipment needed to detect strains of tuberculosis that resist standard treatments.

Dr. Charles Sandy, deputy director of AIDS and tuberculosis programs at the Health Ministry, is in charge of the country’s TB treatment centers.

He said his department is decentralizing care, especially in rural communities, and distributing motorcycles to ensure rural health staff can reach the many people needing care who are unable to get to hospitals.

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