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Zimbabwe Marks World TB Day With Calls to End Stigma

Zimbabwe on Monday joined the international community in commemorating World Tuberculosis Day highlighting challenges communities continue to face despite efforts to effectively control the disease.

The day was marked internationally under the theme; "Reach the 3 million." Tuberculosis, a curable disease, affects some nine million people worldwide annually, one third of which fail to receive the treatment they need.

The three million people live in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable areas.

Dr. Owen Mugurungi of the health ministry’s Aids and TB Unit said officials are pushing for early TB screenings, hoping Zimbabweans will shy away from stigmatizing those with TB or both HIV-TB.

Health experts say early treatment requires understanding the most common symptoms of TB, which include chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, night sweats and a prolonged cough lasting over two weeks.

According to the World Health Organization, over 95% of TB deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Poor communities and vulnerable groups are the most affected, but this airborne disease is a risk to all.

Though TB in many sub-Saharan countries, including Zimbabwe, is HIV-driven, health experts are warning against the stigma associated with the illness, saying having the curable disease does not mean a person is HIV positive or has Aids.

Dr. Rutendo Bonde is the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights. She says early detection is key to receiving life-saving treatment.

She said Zimbabwe has made strides in fighting TB, adding much, however, still needs to be done to ensure the disease is put under control.