Elmina, March 23, GNA - Major Retired Courage Quarshigah, Minister of Health on Wednesday, observed that the nation could avert 60,000 TB deaths within a five-year period if all Ghanaians supported to care for persons affected with the disease.
He said tee reduction of TB prevalence and deaths was among the indicators to assess the Millennium Development Goals and urged all to contribute their quota in the fight against the disease.
Major Quarshigah stated these in a speech read on his behalf at the launch of the national celebration of "World Stop TB Day" under the theme, "Cure one TB disease, prevent many, Fight TB everywhere," at Elmina.
He said the government was providing free TB treatment in all health facilities of the Ministry of Health and had now moved a step further to support 49 private health units in the country to also offer free TB treatment to patients.
The Minister said the government was preparing to mobilize 18 million dollars in the next five years from the Global Fund in addition to five million dollars already secured to expand TB services with NGO's and Civil societies.
He said the nation was in a battle against TB, adding that, "the TB germ must be stopped and its transmission halted otherwise the war against HIV/AIDS will be lost too".
Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director General of Ghana Health Service expressed concern that more than 11,000 new TB cases were recorded annually in the country.
Prof. Akosa said that in 2004 11,750 new TB cases were recorded countrywide with Greater Accra and Ashanti regions alone reporting more than 2000 cases each while Eastern, Western Central and Volta Regions reported over 1,000 cases each.
He explained that the TB treatment success in the country was 69 per cent and the plan now was to reach a success target of 85 per cent by next year and called on stakeholders to commit themselves to the fight against the disease.
Dr Melville George, WHO Country Representative in a speech read on his behalf noted that although the African region made up only 10 per cent of the world population it accounted for at least 25 per cent of global notified TB cases every year.
He said between 2002 and 2003 the region experienced a 7.8 per cent increase in total reported TB cases and a 12.8 per cent increase in new reported smear positive pulmonary TB cases (the most infectious).
In his address, Mr Isaac Edumadze, Central Regional Minister said TB patients were human beings who must be treated with dignity, adding that, discrimination against them was a violation of their rights. He urged all to make a conscious effort at educating the public on the causes, symptoms and prevention of the disease.
Dr Eric Offei, Regional Director of Ghana Health Service in a welcome address said the launch of the day in the region was significant since its afforded the opportunity to strengthen TB control activities in view of the high HIV prevalence rate.
Earlier, health workers and school children went on a procession through the town bearing placards some of which read "TB can be cured," "TB treatment is free," "Help make a TB free country," "Go way TB," and Get early treatment. 23 March .05