US committed to working with Zimbabwe in fighting TB

Lovemore Lubinda

The United States of America government says it is committed in working with Zimbabwe in combating Tuberculosis (TB), a disease that is emerging as one of the main killers world over because of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic.

In a statement released, the US embassy says it joins the country today in commemorating World Tuberculosis Day.

“Through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the US has contributed long-term and substantial investments to the fight against TB in Zimbabwe,” says the Embassy.

The US adds that this cooperation has since reached hundreds of thousands Zimbabweans with life-saving health services.

The US has also assisted the country through health initiative like US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This initiative supports the national HIV/AIDS responses through supporting high-impact prevention, care, and treatment interventions.

PEPFAR also supports health systems strengthening to enhance sustainability of HIV and health sector programs.

According to USAID, in 2015, Zimbabwe was the 17th highest tuberculosis (TB) burden country in the world, and TB is the second leading cause of severe illness and mortality in Zimbabwe.  

The most significant contributing factor to the TB burden is the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Approximately 80 percent of TB patients are co-infected with HIV.  This co-infection remains a major factor propelling the high death rate among TB patients in Zimbabwe.

Most cases of TB are found in the urban areas of Zimbabwe.  As stated by USAID, over the last five years, to 2014, the number of TB cases detected annually has ranged between 40,000 and 48,000.  

USAID supports TB diagnostic services through the development and expansion of a sputum transport system. By 2014, about half of Zimbabwe’s districts used this system, and it has reduced test result turn-around time from several weeks to between one and four days, leading to increased early initiation of TB treatment.

Additionally, the time taken to diagnose drug resistant TB has shortened from eight weeks to two hours with USAID-supplied testing technology. USAID is procuring, installing, and providing training for this new technology. Currently, USAID provides training in integrating TB and HIV services to twenty-three primary health care facilities in the largest urban areas of the country to encourage combined treatment of the two diseases.