On March 24 every year, World Tuberculosis Day (TB) is observed, and this year, it was marked under the theme ‘Clock is Ticking’.
The day is observed to mark the discovery of the cause behind the deadly disease. It is meant to spread awareness about tuberculosis and its devastating health, social and economic consequences, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, nearly 4000 lose their lives to TB, and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 63 million lives since the year 2000.
In Rwanda, Dr Vianney Byiringiro Rusisiro, the director of TB Infection Control Unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), says during the fiscal year 2018/19, the total TB cases diagnosed were 5,949, of which 109 were multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases.
Among them, 91 per cent were new TB cases while 9 per cent were old cases.
During the same time, TB bacteriologically confirmed cases were 4,349 (74 per cent) and clinically diagnosed were 1,506 (26 per cent).
TB detection rate was at 80 per cent and that of missing cases stood at 20 per cent.
The TB HIV co-infection was at 21 per cent (1,245), as that of children under 15 years was 7.6 per cent.
The theme of World TB Day 2021, ‘The Clock is Ticking’, conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments made by global leaders to end TB.
This is especially critical in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic that has put TB progress at risk, and to ensure equitably access to prevention and care in line with World Health Organization’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.
Eugene Dusenge, a Rwanda Pharmaceutical Organisation (RPSA) public officer, says tuberculosis is a preventable and curable infectious disease caused by bacillus mycobacterium tuberculosis; it typically affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can affect other sites as well.
He says that pulmonary TB is a bacterial infection of the lungs that can cause a range of symptoms, including chest pain, breathlessness, and severe coughing.
Pulmonary TB can be life-threatening if a person does not receive treatment. People with active TB can spread the bacteria through the air.
In Rwanda, the country aims to end TB by 2035 and different interventions are being made, one of them is TB patients getting all medications for free.
There is also capacity building among health care providers and community health workers, which is done through training on the modern ways of diagnosing TB with modern equipment.
Another measure is mobilisation on TB by the government of Rwanda through RBC and non-government organisations including RPSA.
Dusenge says RPSA helps in raising awareness and educating people on how they can invest efforts to combat this disease in communities.
For instance, he says, in 2018 RPSA visited different secondary schools and prisons with the aim of educating inmates about TB.
In 2019 they provided educative sessions about TB in ENDP Karubanda (Ecole Notre dame de la providence) and Groupe Scolaire Oficiel de Butare (GSOB) also known as Indatwa n’Inkesha, both located in Huye District. They also carried out awareness in Karubanda Prison in Southern Province.
The following year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, RPSA conducted an online campaign in partnership with RBC and National Youth Service (NYS) where they used sport and was aired on RBA Radio and its five branches.
This year, RPSA joined the world in commemorating World TB Day, and this time around they decided to use animated videos on social media platforms highlighting TB symptoms and what can be done when one has similar symptoms.