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TB Infections Worrying Zimbabwe Health Experts

A doctor points to an x-ray showing a pair of lungs infected with TB (tuberculosis).

A tuberculosis prevalence survey conducted recently has shown that 58% of people with TB do not know their status.

According to the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, while some of people have TB symptoms, others do not have any, posing a public health hazard since this is a communicable disease.

The Union says there is need for the government to carry out some tuberculosis awareness programs as most people are not even aware that they are living with the condition.

Tuberculosis in the country is driven by the HIV/AIDS pandemic with a co-infection of 70%.

The World Health Organisation says Zimbabwe was unable to meet the Millennium Development Goal target to reduce tuberculosis prevalence and mortality rates by 50 percent due to a significant increase in new infections in the past decade.

The Union says TB infections are a public health concern because the disease is easily communicable and people get infected, sometimes without even realising that they are at risk.

The Union’s country director in Zimbabwe, Dr. Christopher Zishiri, told journalists who are part of the Health Journalists Association of Zimbabwe that the prevalence rate, especially in border towns, is worrisome with migrants and returning residents not accessing medication in various countries.

He said this normally puts pressure on local hospitals when they come back home with the disease.

According to Dr. Zishiri, TB is a major public health issue in Zimbabwe and by working with the government and offering support to local communities, they can contribute to eradicate the disease.

He said there is need for contact screenings so that they trace all the people who come into contact with those who are infected.

He added that they have embarked on a five-year plan in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the International Organisation of Migration to reduce the TB prevalence rate in the border towns.

Most doctors are worried about the prevalence of the disease in the country. One of them is Dr. Charles Sandy, deputy director HIV/AIDS and TB programme in the Ministry of Health, who says the highest prevalence rates are in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions due to a highly mobile population.

Dr. Sandy says there are few health service providers in some provinces, which compromises service delivery in most rural areas.

He says government needs to allocate more resources for fighting TB infections in the two regions as they bear the brunt of the TB burden in the country.

Bulawayo resident, Rita Sengwayo, says HIV/AIDS stigmatization is one of the major reasons why people prefer to die silently of TB as in most people’s minds the two are always interlinked.

Sengwayo says there is need to raise awareness among citizens that TB is curable and a person stops being infectious once they are on medication.

Another resident, Nomagugu Nkomo, believes that Zimbabwe’s current harsh economic environment has made it impossible for local clinics to follow up on infected residents.

Although Zimbabwe is ranked 17th out of the world's 22 TB burden countries in the world, the Matabeleland regions border South Africa and Botswana, which rank 2nd and 8th respectively.