Tuesday, 5 April 2011

TUBERCULOSIS: Guyana: $35M x-ray system to boost tuberculosis care

March 27, 2011  KNews

An estimated $100M is going to be expended by the Ministry of Health as part of its effort to improve the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis. As part of its plan, the Ministry will in a matter of weeks commission its first digital radiology system in the public health sector, a move which is valued at $35M, according to Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
According to FXB Guyana Programme Director, Nicole Jordan, “That machine is going to create a one-stop shopping centre right at the Georgetown Chest Clinic…where patients can come and get their chest X-rays and they can be guaranteed their diagnosis will come earlier and health workers can guarantee that you will not lose them.”
The FXB Guyana Programme, which is slated to come to an end shortly, has been working for a number of years with the Ministry of Health and has helped the National Tuberculosis Programme (NTP) to develop a standard package of services which can be accessed within the public health sector.
The Ministry of Health as part of its efforts to further raise awareness about TB, on Thursday launched its ‘B TB free’ campaign as part of the local observance of World TB Day which is observed globally on March 24.
The campaign which represents a collaborative effort between the National AIDS Programme Secretariat and the National TB Control Programme, was designed to dispel myths about TB, as well as to disseminate factual information to the public about the disease, according to NAPS Prevention Coordinator, Jennifer Ganesh.
This move is seen as especially crucial as efforts are made to address the daunting “double-whammy” effect of HIV-TB co-infection, Ganesh added.
According to NTP Programme Manager, Dr Jeetendra Mohanlall, over the years the NTP had had the sustained support of one Non-Governmental Organisation, the Guyana Chest Society, but it is in need of more involvement from civil society to battle the dreaded disease.
The ‘B TB Free’ initiative, according to Dr Mohanlall comprises of a brochure, a poster, two radio messages and two television messages. And while it is intended to reach the general population, he noted that the male faction is especially being targeted. He disclosed that male TB patients are the ones that mostly default as it relates to the consistent use of their treatment.
In recognition of the fact that the fight against TB has remained a global challenge over the years, Minister Ramsammy said that Guyana has been making significant strides. At the moment there are 20 TB testing sites and there are plans to expand such facilities to Kamarang, Mahaicony and East Bank Demerara.
“While we are fortunate in Guyana to have access, we need to ensure that there are easier methods to test for TB that provide immediate results.”
The Ministry just over a few years ago was able to introduce the PCR-DNA test which could provide results in two hours and also detect multi-drug resistance strains, allowing health workers to treat and manage TB patients better.
According to Minister Ramsammy, the world has an opportunity, with the support of global partners, to make sure that (faster) tests become available to citizens in every part of the world, whether they live in poor or rich environments.
“I can make a commitment to Guyana that as soon as it is possible we will have that test in Guyana. We have already made contact …the World Health Organisation (WHO) is working with us, but the test is not yet commercially available for scaled-up activities.”
Efforts must also be directed to accelerate the availability of new, better and more potent TB vaccines, Minister Ramsammy said. He alluded to the fact that although the BCG vaccine is used in this regard it does not provide universal coverage and is less effective in adults.
“We need better vaccines and we need more research, therefore we need to commit ourselves to addressing barriers if the trajectory of elimination will become possible in Guyana and the world.
Detailing global statistics, the Minister said that there are nine million TB infections and 1.7 million deaths on an annual basis. He reported, too, that about two billion people carry the latent form of the disease, adding that one out of every three persons in the world has been exposed.

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