Dr Yaw Adusi-Poku, Manager of the National Tuberculosis Programme
Dr Yaw Adusi-Poku, Manager of the National Tuberculosis Programme
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TB kills 43 daily - Expert calls for investment to deal with burden

Ahead of the global commemoration of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day tomorrow, it has emerged that 43 Ghanaians die of the disease, an airborne disease, every day although the condition is curable and is treated for free.

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The deaths have been attributed to people not availing themselves for screening; diagnosis capacity gap among health workers; inadequate screening and diagnostic equipment; late introduction of preventive treatment and stigma.

Coupled with the above, funding to carry out TB control programme is currently limited, with virtually no state commitment.

The disease is transmitted when an infected person with symptoms-active TB- coughs, sings, sneezes, shouts or talks, which releases the TB bacteria into the atmosphere, which is in turn inhaled by people around. 

An asymptomatic person living with the condition, known as latent TB, can not transmit but such a person could develop the active TB if his/her immune system gets compromised or breaks down due to other health conditions and poor diet.

The mode of transmission makes everyone vulnerable, a situation which requires that everybody should help to find all persons yet to be diagnosed of TB but living with the condition.

The Manager of the National Tuberculosis Programme, Dr Yaw Adusi-Poku, said everyone was vulnerable to the highly contagious airborne disease, and that all hands must be on deck to put TB under control.

He said people in poorly ventilated or air-conditioned spaces were more vulnerable, and mentioned other risk factors to include  people with compromised immune systems such as people living with diabetes, and HIV infection.

He said people who also indulged in  substance abuse and people with low body weight were also vulnerable to active TB

Addressing a section of the media at a training programme on TB advocacy in Accra, Dr Adusi-Poku said TB control in the country was heavily dependent on donor funding, particularly on the global fund, a situation he described as worrying and unsustainable.

The training was organised by the Ghana National TB Voice Network (GNTBVN), in partnership with the National TB Control Programme and the Global Fund.

It has been established that the government does not honour its Global Fund Grant Cycle 7 (GC7) co-financing obligation, and has not made any financial commitment to the fight against TB for the next three years as required by the United Nations (UN).

Dr Adusi-Poku said more public and private investments into screening, advocacy and treatment were required to deal with the national TB burden and accelerated interventions.

He said the mode of transmission made everyone vulnerable.

Commemoration

On March 24 every year, the international community commemorates World Tuberculosis (TB) Day to raise awareness of the importance of screening and treatment of what has been described as one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

World TB Day is an opportunity to renew commitment, inspire and take action to end TB. 

This year’s commemoration, which happens tomorrow is on the theme “Yes! We can end TB”. 

March 24 is the anniversary of the day in 1882 when the bacterium causing TB was discovered.

Lack of logistics, equipment

Dr Adusi-Poku said the country recorded 19,000 new cases of TB in 2023, with the number showing an increase over the 16,500 cases recorded in 2022.

However, he said, case detection was far below the estimated 44,000 TB cases projected to be detected annually. 

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He said between 2014 and 2019, an average of 15,000 and below cases were picked annually, indicating that more people with the condition had not been diagnosed and were not on treatment, posing huge risk to the entire population.

He said in the past, the country did not have modern equipment to ensure that results were obtained in a matter of hours, but expressed delight that a new generation of TB screening equipment, the Gene-Xperts, had been introduced.

He lamented, however, that out of the 261 districts, only 171 had the Gene-Xperts.

“We have 261 districts, and we have 171 Gene-Xperts, so we need to expand, make it accessible so that the mother or care giver wouldn’t travel for long for the test,” he said.

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He said the districts without the Gene-Xperts did sample transportation to the teaching hospitals for diagnosis, and that it took two weeks to get the results instead of just about 16 hours.

Dr Adusi-Poku said the national TB programme had over the years been saddled with inadequate cartridges required to screen TB using the Gene-Xperts.

He said in 2023, more new TB cases were picked up because the National TB Programme had a good number of the cartridges.

“Throughout 2023, there were no shortages of cartridges. We got cartridges from the COVID fund, through proposals that we wrote.

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He said currently, there were cartridges available, which were a rollover from 2023 but he could not guarantee if they would be enough for 2024 through to 2025 and 2026 unless the government came in to support.

Appeal

Dr Adusi-Poku and the other stakeholders, such as the Stop TB... and the Global Fund, appealed to the government and private entities to invest in equipment, logistics, advocacy and capacity building for health workers to enhance cases detection and treatment.

He also appealed to Parliament to support the National TB Programme by amending the procurement laws to allow them to purchase cartridges and first-line medicines and resources.

He also called on the media to continue and heighten advocacy on TB to demystify the health condition and eradicate the stigma associated with the condition, especially because it was acquired through breathing.

He said TB care was a basic human right just like every other healthcare need and, therefore, in the spirit of Universal Health Coverage and leaving no one behind, deliberate efforts were needed by all stakeholders, particularly the government, to ensure that no case was missed and no found case was lost.

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