Windhoek — Namibia advanced its battle against tuberculosis (TB) last week when the Minister of Health and Social Services, Richard Kamwi launched the National Guidelines for the Management of Tuberculosis alongside the GeneXpert machine.
A cartridge-based automated diagnostic test, the GeneXpert machine can identify TB rapidly and is capable of detecting resistance to the most important anti-TB medicines. Kamwi noted that traditional tests miss many TB cases especially in patients living with TB and that is why tests suitable for the detection of TB among people with HIV are highly sought after worldwide.
"One such test that has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation and other international technical agents, is the 'Xpert MTB/RIF' test. In line with international recommendations, Namibia has adopted this test and this has been incorporated in the revised National Guidelines for the Management of Tuberculosi," Kamwi said.
Moreover, numerous patients were failing treatment because of multi-drug-resistant TB - a form that has evolved itself into the greatest threat to national control targets with 192 cases notified in 2011. He said the diagnosis of this strand using traditional tests could take up to 2 months, allowing a situation where patients could continue unknowingly to spread the disease while awaiting results, thus the need for faster tests.
"We are aware of the challenges sometimes to provide efficient services and technologies to the more remote rural areas of Namibia, especially in the north.
We are proud to sponsor this unique mobile unit to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and thus provide essential help for recognizing and treating Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS related health issues," Angelica San, the director of Peralin Paints, whose company donated the GeneXpert machine, said.
The machine was obtained at a cost of around N$170 000. Close to 11 000 new and relapse cases of TB were noted in 2011, which represents a notification rate of 513 cases per 100 000 and affirm that Namibia is one of the worst affected countries in the world, despite improvements from the 2010 notification rate of 589/ 100 000.
The HIV epidemic is one of the major drivers of TB with 50 percent of cases reported in 2011. At the same event, Kamwi also launched the third edition of the National Guidelines for the Management of Tuberculosis following the 1995 and 2006 releases.