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24.03.2004 General News

Government secured $18 million for TB prevention

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Koforidua Mar. 24 GNA - The Government is presently mobilising additional 18 million dollars from the Global Fund for the next five years, to add to five million dollars already secured to expand Tuberculosis (TB) services through the use of NGOs and civil society. The Minister of Health, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, made this known in a speech read on his behalf at the national launching of World TB Day at the Jackson's Park, Koforidua on Wednesday, under the theme: "Every breath counts, stop TB now."

He, therefore, asked the people to support government's efforts to reverse the increasing trend of TB disease in Ghana by 2015, pointing out that Ghana could avert 60,000 needless TB deaths within a five-year period, if individuals and communities would partner the Ministry of Health to identify, support and treat those affected with TB. Dr Afriyie disclosed that in 2003, the country recorded 11,954 TB cases of which all the cases were successfully put on treatment with 65 per cent being the infectious type of TB.

According to him, the National TB Control Programme has said that 98,000 new infections were prevented from taking place last year, adding that six out of the 10 regions reported more than 1,000 new TB cases in 2003, with Ashanti Region recording the highest with 1,772 followed by Eastern Region with 1,719.

Dr Afriyie said available data in 2002 indicated that 491 people died of TB in the country, out of which 73 of the deaths were recorded in the Eastern Region while the Central Region recorded the highest of 113.

He said more deaths and infections could be prevented if those infected with the TB disease could be encouraged and supported to come out to receive treatment, instead of stigmatising them.

Dr Afriyie said it is estimated that between 2002 and 2020, approximately 100 million people will be infected with TB and 36 million will die, if control is not further strengthened.

In most parts of the world including Ghana, he said more men than women are diagnosed with TB and die from it, but pointed out that TB is a leading infectious cause of death among women.

He said in 1999, about three-quarters of a million women died of TB and over three million contracted the disease, accounting for 17 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY).

He said as tuberculosis affects women mainly in their economically and reproductively active years, the impact of the disease is also strongly felt by their children and families.

Dr Afriyie observed that the spread of HIV/AIDS and the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB are contributing to the worsening impact of the disease, noting that together with HIV, "a deadly partnership", TB is threatening the workforce and economically productive age groups. Sixty per cent of TB cases in this country are between 15 to 49 years, he added.

"We must not let the misconception and ignorance people have about the disease add to the misery of those affected with TB," he said.

The Eastern Regional Minister, Dr Francis Osafo-Mensah, stressed that the fight against the TB disease required concerted efforts on the part of all and should not be left on the shoulders of the health workers alone.

He noted that the high incidence of tuberculosis, especially in the developing countries, was caused by poverty and unhealthy environment in which they live, saying it was for this reason that the government was putting in place sound socio-economic policies and strategies to reduce poverty in the country to improve the health status of the people. Dr Osafo Mensah said statistics indicated that about 30 to 40 per cent of TB patients are HIV positive.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Director, Dr Ebrahim M. Samba, in an address read for him, called on governments and decision makers to pay closer attention to TB control and invest more in it. He also asked health workers to be more vigilant to identify all possible TB cases and treat them successfully, saying it was the social responsibility for each member of the society to help identify the TB patients and encourage them to attend hospital for diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Samba challenged private and corporate sectors to partner with their governments to fight the disease because, "we are all at risk if we fail to do so."

He, therefore, called for unity and the pooling of resources and expertise to win the battle against TB and make Africa a better and safer place to live in.

In a welcoming address, Dr Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira, Eastern Regional Director of the Ghana Health Services (GHS) said in spite of the technological advances, the TB disease still posses a dangerous threat to mankind even with each breath.

He said in the Eastern Region, 1,719 cases of TB cases were recorded in 2003, out of which 909 were severe and 97 persons died. Dr Appiah-Denkyirah called for concerted efforts to combat the dreadful disease.

Later, an 11-member Eastern Regional Society for the prevention of TB was inaugurated.

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