Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis still a ma­jor health pri­or­ity for the Caribbean

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - --- (Caribbean 360)

The Caribbean Tues­day joined the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in ob­serv­ing World Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis (TB) day with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in­di­cat­ing that the dis­ease re­mains a ma­jor health pri­or­ity for the re­gion.

“TB re­mains a public health pri­or­ity for the Caribbean re­gion with more than 30,000 new cases oc­cur­ring ev­ery year,” said CARPHA ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Dr. C. James Hospedales.

Fig­ures re­leased here show that TB re­mains a ma­jor global health prob­lem, re­spon­si­ble for ill­ness among nine mil­lion new peo­ple each year, and deaths of 1.5 mil­lion. World­wide, TB ranks as the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death from an in­fec­tious dis­ease, af­ter the hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus (HIV).

The Day is be­ing ob­served un­der the theme “Find, Treat, Cure TB”. The ma­jor symptoms of TB are per­sis­tent cough, fa­tigue, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

CARPHA said that progress to­wards TB con­trol in the Caribbean has been slow, de­spite recog­ni­tion that emer­gence and/or in­creas­ing trends for the dis­ease pose a threat to public health.

“The Caribbean, as a re­gion, still has to in­crease its ef­forts in or­der to achieve the United Na­tions Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goal (MDG) 2015 tar­get to re­duce by 50% the bur­den of TB (dis­ease preva­lence and deaths) rel­a­tive to the 1990 lev­els,” CARPHA noted.

It said sev­eral Caribbean coun­tries still have high TB in­ci­dence rates, and HIV/AIDS, short­age of lab­o­ra­tory ca­pac­ity, limited treat­ment suc­cess and pro­gramme fund­ing gaps, are among the fac­tors favour­ing TB con­tin­u­ing to pose a sig­nif­i­cant health threat in the Re­gion. CARPHA, which serves as the re­gional ref­er­ence and re­fer­ral lab­o­ra­tory for the di­ag­no­sis of TB and drug re­sis­tant TB said it pro­vides as­sis­tance to TB pro­grammes in its mem­ber states, in­ves­ti­gates TB out­breaks, and con­trib­utes to the re­gional TB sur­veil­lance through yearly re­port­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO).

But Dr. Hospedales said that in or­der to make fur­ther progress to­wards the new MDG goals “TB con­trol must be main­streamed into the health agenda as with HIV, and in­clude broader strate­gic plan­ning ap­proaches and fi­nan­cial frame­works aimed at poverty re­duc­tion.

“It is es­sen­tial that Caribbean coun­tries en­sure high qual­ity TB ser­vices through im­ple­ment­ing the com­po­nents of the Stop TB Strat­egy and that tar­get pre­ven­tion and con­trol ac­tiv­i­ties fit their re­spec­tive epi­demi­o­log­i­cal sit­u­a­tion,” he added.

CARPHA said that ef­forts should be strength­ened to en­sure good qual­ity TB pro­grammes that en­able prompt iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and ad­e­quate man­age­ment of peo­ple with TB, as well as nec­es­sary in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures.

This in­cludes strength­en­ing of HIV coun­sel­ing and testing among peo­ple with TB, mak­ing An­tiretro­vi­ral Ther­apy (ART) avail­able for all peo­ple with TB living with HIV, and bet­ter data to as­sess the per­for­mance of TB/HIV col­lab­o­ra­tive ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing pre­ven­tion of TB among peo­ple living with HIV in the pop­u­la­tion.

Dr. Hospedales said that it is the re­gion’s “col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity” and that “ef­forts to com­bat TB must be ac­cel­er­ated if the post-2015 tar­gets are to be met. “Po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment, as well as com­mu­ni­ca­tion, co­op­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion with health­care work­ers at all lev­els of the health sec­tor and the pop­u­la­tion at large, are es­sen­tial for the achieve­ment of TB pro­gramme goals,” he added.

Dr. C. James Hospedales calls for the Caribbean, as a re­gion to in­crease ef­forts to re­duce by 50% the bur­den of TB (dis­ease preva­lence and deaths).

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