15,600 Ugandans die due to TB annually

Dr Aceng is honoured with an accolade for her efforts in fighting TB during the World TB Day held in Lira on May 6, 2022. PHOTO | PATRICK EBONG

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  • Dr Jane Aceng, the minister of health, however, noted that despite this high burden, Uganda has registered significant progress in the fight against TB.

Uganda has registered some progress in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) although the country has remained among the world’s top 30 countries with a high prevalence of TB and HIV.

According to the statistics from the Ministry of Health, about 90,000 Ugandans are still developing TB annually including 1,500 multi-drug resistant TB. Also, an estimated 15,600 deaths due to TB are registered in the country yearly.

Dr Jane Aceng, the minister of health, however, noted that despite this high burden, Uganda has registered significant progress in the fight against TB.

“We have registered progress in finding the new TB patients since 2015 with an increase in TB treatment coverage currently, up to 84% from 54% in 2015,” she said.

“However, more efforts are still required if we are to end the BT epidemic by 2030.”

The minister was officiating at the belated national celebrations to mark World TB and Leprosy Day in Lira City on Friday.

Dr Aceng said that in 2021 she launched the first TB, leprosy campaigns geared toward reducing the disease burden through household TB, leprosy community screening, awareness creation, testing, treatment and prevention.

“We have made significant progress in reaching people living with HIV with TB prevention therapy up to 80% and we are prepared to reach 100% of all the eligible people living with HIV in care by the end of this year,” Dr Aceng said.

She explained that unlike in the past when TB patients were enrolled for treatment for a period ranging from six months to a year, TB treatment has now been simplified to only three months.

The minister said the other achievement in the area of treatment is that the lives of over 250,000 Ugandans have been saved since 2015 through a number of collaborative actions.

“We have realised an improvement in the treatment success from 72% in 2018 to over 80% in 2020. Treatment is available free of charge to all people with TB in Uganda,” Dr Aceng noted.

This success is attributed to community-level follow up of clients, consistent supply of commodities to all health facilities, and improved data collection, reporting and use.

The Director-General of Health Services, Dr Henry Mwebesa, said the national celebration for World TB and Leprosy day was taken to Lira because Lango Sub-region has so many cases and Lira Regional Referral Hospital has recorded many cases of TB.

He said the Lango Sub-region still has a high prevalence of TB and the local transmission going on in the community including the multi-drug resistant TB.

“Information shows that out of 100 TB cases in this country, 16 are from this region of northern Uganda. Leprosy out of 100, six are from here. So, that means we need to move with serious action,” Dr Mwebesa said.

He said the Ministry of Health has started a new programme called creating community awareness, screening, testing and treatment (CCASTT) which is revitalising and identifying cases of TB in the community.

Dr Mwebesa said that under this programme, Village Health Teams (VHTs) have been trained on how to take samples and they have been provided with kits.

“So, what we do now; we go to the congregation in churches, to schools, to prisons, taxi parks and all those kinds of areas to explain to the people about the burden of TB. Tell them that if you have been coughing for at least two weeks, it is important that you come and we test you,” he said.

He said that since this programme started at the beginning of this year, they have picked very many news cases that were not known.

“When we came to the Lango region here, we screened about 17,000 samples and 500 new cases were diagnosed with TB including 6 multiple drug-resistant TB,” the Director-General of Health Services added.

Mr Richards Nelson, the USAID coordinator in Uganda, said despite the progress made in Uganda, TB remains one of the biggest challenges.

“In Uganda an estimated 223 people get ill and 12 people die every day from TB. Ending TB is challenging and requires intensive work and efforts of many people,” he said.

Dr Patrick Ambayo, Director of non-communicable diseases at World Health Organisation, said that 36% of TB related deaths in the world occur in Africa, calling for collective efforts in mobilising resources without depending more on donor funds.

“To reduce Uganda’s high TB related deaths and eliminate the stigma related to leprosy, we need to direct more resources to this fight,” he said.

Mr Tom Okaka, a leprosy patient who is a resident of Ayile village, Ayami Sub-county, Lira District, who testified at the function said they get a lot of discrimination from the public.

“Since we don’t have our fingers to dig with, whenever we try to sell some edibles to earn a living, people refuse to buy and openly demonise us as outcasts,” Mr Okaka said.

World TB Day

World TB Day is commemorated on March 24 and this year’s commemoration was held under the theme “Invest to End TB. Save Lives.”

World Leprosy Day is always marked on the last Sunday of February and the theme for this year was “United for Dignity”.

The two events were combined by the Ministry of Health to save resources and the national celebration was scheduled in Lira City on March 24, but was postponed following the death of the former Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, on February 24.