More money needed to fight TB : MSF

HARARE - More investment is essential in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), including addressing barriers preventing research into better drug combinations and treatment, says Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) official.

MSF Head of Mission in Zimbabwe Paul Foreman says last year alone they helped the ministry of Health and Child Welfare treat over 3 000 patients in districts such as Epworth, Seke, Gokwe and Tsholotsho.

More money is needed to cover the whole country and save lives, he said.

“Pharmaceutical industries looked at profitable diseases like hypertension and diabetes and they missed TB. The problem is that TB treatment was created 50 years. The immune system evolved and hence resistance brought together with HIV has become a major problem,” Foreman said.

“We urgently need diagnostic tests and better treatment.”

Foreman says multi- resistant tuberculosis drugs MDR-TB must be used to make treatment much shorter, more effective, less toxic, but more funding is needed to achieve this in Zimbabwe.

He also says the media has a role to play in the fight against stigma as many people believe that the disease is incurable.

Ashok Sankpal, a medical doctor with MSF based in Epworth, says the disease is very difficult to diagnose in children.

“Paediatric treatment is in extreme shock and under-fives are at a higher risk of getting TB,” he says.
According to the statistics from the ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the disease is claiming more than 83 000 people annually with two thirds of the sick not being treated.

Zimbabwe had an infection rate of about 47 000 per year. In the 2011 Global TB Report, Zimbabwe was ranked 17th among the 22 high burden TB countries in the world and world TB day is on March 24.

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