Govt Appeals for Early Diagnosis to Reduce TB Incidence, Costs on Treatment

Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng during a news conference on Thursday.

Ahead of the World Tuberclosis Day, government is appealing to the public to conduct early diagnosis of Tuberculosis (TB) so as to allow for timely treatment of the disease which accounts for 30 percent of total deaths in Uganda.

The appeal was made by the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng on Thursday while announcing the events to mark the annual day this year.

World Tuberculosis Day is commemorated every March 24. This year, the theme is “It is time for Uganda to End TB” and slogan “It starts with me”.

In Uganda, the commemorative events will be held at the Ruhama play ground in Ruhama county, Ntungamo district.

“Many people with TB do not know they have it and about 40% of those with TB symptoms do not go to the health facility for treatment,” Minister Aceng told reporters at the Ministry of Health headquarters.

Ending TB in Uganda means only 10 or fewer people developing TB for every 100,000 Ugandans. However, currently, the annual incidence stands at 201 TB cases per 100,000 (86,000) people.

Dr Aceng says the Ministry has provided adequate infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment of TB up to the health center III level. All diagnosis and treatment is provided free of charge.

“Last year, we registered marked improvement in the number of people we detected with TB disease. 64% of all new TB cases were diagnosed and started on TB treatment,” she said.

This, according to the Minister, reduces the gap of missing people with TB but is also a sign that when we look for TB it is actually there.

Results from a recent study on expenditure by TB patients and their households indicate that 53 percent of these households spend more than 20 percent of their annual income trying to seek TB services. The costs are on transport (to health facilities), nutrition supplements, food, as well as individuals who spend on treatment prior to diagnosis.

“TB is a disease of the poor and such expenditures mean the disease pushes these households into abject poverty”.

She said “making a TB diagnosis on the first encounter with a patient visiting the health facility reduces on the expenditure such people would have to incur before diagnosis is done”.

She also advised patients of TB to the health facility frequently for follow up may not be possible for some patients due to related costs.

Statistics show that for those found with the disease whoinitiate TB treatment, only slightly above 70% complete the treatment and over 20% do not return to complete their treatment.

The Ministry of Health is reorganizing TB treatment centers to be more patient centeredto enable each patient situation assessed on the same day and treatment customized to address some barriers patients may have, Dr Aceng said.

She appealed for all Ugandans “to be TB conscious and support persons with TB disease to get diagnosis and treatment and those without disease that have been prioritized for prevention to complete it and avoid getting the disease”.

Government spends about USD 35m annually on programs related to avert TB.

The disease

TB is spread through air and is easily transmitted in congested places with many people especially in a closed off spaces with poor ventilation or without freely flowing air.

Such places are prisons, churches, schools, homes, markets, shopping malls, offices, bars, restaurants and vehicles such as taxis and buses.  

Children under 5 years of age, the elderly and People living with HIV, malnourished person have higher chances of getting TB than the general public.

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