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Dialogue on TB prevention

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Traditionally, efforts to stop the spread of TB has been left to only health professionals in spite of the fact that local communities and people who are directly affected by TB  but have been cured have important roles to play as active partners to help halt the spread of the disease.

Every year the Upper East Region records about 700 cases of TB, with less than 1 per cent of the reported cases being multi drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). 

This should be a major cause of concern for all since most cases also go undetected due to stigma and ignorance.

The fight to Stop TB, TB/HIV and Multi Drug Resistant TB can only be won when interventions are designed, planned, implemented and evaluated jointly with people with TB and their communities from the very start.

As part of efforts to create spaces for dialogue and give a voice to Persons Living with TB (PLTBs), Rural Initiatives For Self Empowerment-Ghana (RISE Ghana), a Bolgatanga based NGO as part of a Stop TB Partnership project dubbed “Mobilising and Strengthening Civil Society and Organisations of TB Affected People to Demand Accountability and Stop TB in the Upper East Region,” has organized a series of capacity building and advocacy programmes.

The programmes are aimed at increasing awareness, duty bearer responsiveness and reducing stigma by targeting people affected by TB, health administrators, community leaders, traditional leaders and the media.

The meeting was part of efforts to give a voice to local communities and local people to influence the way TB programmes are run, for them to demand increase funding for TB and reduction of stigma. 

Stakeholders, including directors of health, TB Coordinators, Traditional Leaders and Persons Living with TB (PLTBs), participated in the meeting not only to interface but also strategise to end TB in the region.

Giving a presentation in one of such meetings in Bolgatanga, Mr Awal Ahmed, Project Manager RISE Ghana said scaling up antiretroviral therapy and improving access to TB services posed a formidable challenge to health services. 

He  said community members could complement the efforts of health institutions, with their closeness to the people living with TB and HIV, by providing greater support and care. 

Mr Awal advised that community involvement should increase the range of treatment support options for people receiving treatment for TB/HIV, including the involvement of family members, people who have had TB, community volunteers and neighbors.

Mr Samuel Angyogdem, Upper East Regional TB Focal Person said the key challenges of the TB programme in the region were identified as the weak supervision at district and sub district levels; the inadequate lab services at some districts-notably Garu Tempane district, weak participation by private service providers, TB care in prisons and high risk areas not given much attention, as well as funding gaps.

For the outlook for 2013, he said some activities will be carried out vigorously, such as the training of service providers at public and private health facilities, as well as the pursuit of high external quality assessment of TB microscopy centers.

Other activities would be to conduct TB case search in prisons and high risk areas and the provision of leadership role in monitoring and supporting visits and quarterly review meetings. He gave the assurance that with a little bit more, so much could be achieved.