Dr. Frank Bonsu, Manager of the National Tuberculosis Control Program (NTBCP) Thursday said if Ghana is able to meet its case detection targets for TB across the country, it can beat the global deadline to end Tuberculosis (TB) by 2030.
Under Goal Three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, countries commit to ending the epidemic of the deadly bacterial disease by 2030; thus with a unified strategy, reduce its incidence by 80 per cent, deaths by 90 per cent and to eliminate the catastrophic costs for affected households.
But Dr Bonsu said the weakest link in Ghana’s strategy was the huge gap in identifying persons with TB infections, hence the need to urgently commit more resources to finding the cases to treat.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on, Friday, March 24, he, however, said despite the shortfalls in the case detection gap, TB treatment outcomes had been successful over the years.
Eighty five out of every 100 cases detected were treated.
At the UN General Assembly in September last year, Ghana, with other members, reaffirmed their commitment to the cause.
Their leaders unanimously adopted a political declaration, committing them to accelerate national and collective actions, investments and innovations in fighting the preventable disease.
Dr. Bonsu, to this end, encouraged the Government and all societal leaders, to translate the talks into actions.
“It is time for civil society and the media to lead the national response to ending TB”.
Tuberculosis, he explained, was a developmental issue, which could not be eradicated with medicines only but with national progress.
He observed that voluntary testing amongst the public often increased during the yearly TB Day celebrations, but declined thereafter because the education was not sustained as was necessary.
On how the TB geneXperts diagnosis available at health facilities for active case detection was helping, Dr. Bonsu stated that the technology was being underutilised.
He attributed this to the lack of experts at treatment locations, which had made it difficult for the technology to be used to expand coverage.
“On the average, we are doing two tests per site, but ideally we should be doing at least six tests per site; and we are still at 56 per cent coverage,” he said.
The first case of TB Extensive Drug Resistance (XDR) recorded last year, was still being treated and was almost successful.
The NTBC Program has also identified about nine Pre-XDR cases (not yet confirmed at XDR) and is working with external consultants to ensure that the cases are well managed.
The program has also adopted the newest treatment model by reviewing and including new TB treatment medicines.
Additionally, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has agreed to absorb all treatment costs for TB and it would soon implement the agreement as part of national efforts to reduce the catastrophic cost of TB treatment on patients.
Tuberculosis is a disease caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
It is the world’s top infectious disease killer, claiming 4,500 lives each day.
It mainly infects the lungs, although it can also affect other organs, when someone with untreated TB coughs or sneezes, the air is filled with droplets containing the bacteria.