By Robert Tapfumaneyi
BULAWAYO, Matabeleland North, South, Midlands provinces recorded the highest numbers of tuberculosis (TB) deaths in in 2020 in the country, Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga has said.
The provinces had between 11% and 18% deaths rates among TB patients.
Giving his Key-note address during the 2021 Virtual World TB Day commemorations Wednesday, Chiwenga, who is also the Vice President, said the collaboration between HIV and TB in health service provision continued to be of paramount importance.
However, he cautioned there was need to guard against the likelihood of missing the TB infection in some patients who would be showing Covid-19 symptoms.
“The emergence of Covid-19 in 2020 has had a negative impact on Zimbabwe’s TB response as evidenced by the sharp decline in TB notifications for both drug sensitive and resistant TB,” Chiwenga told an online audience.
“This negative impact of Covid-19 is mainly related to stigma and reduced accessibility to health services leading to delays in TB diagnosis and treatment initiation.
“The clock is ticking, our efforts and focus on Covid-19 would not make us forget that TB remains one of our major public health threats. The realisation calls for expansion and acceleration of integrated approaches given the similarity of some symptoms and signs of the two conditions.”
The Health Minister added; “Now more than ever, we should redouble our support to raise awareness on TB, enhance the community and health system capacities.
“The initiative will reduce morbidity and mortality from this disease for our population.”
Chiwenga went on to say that a TB free Zimbabwe was possible.
“The goal for the TB National Strategic plan is to ensure universal access to high-quality, patient centred TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment services for all Zimbabweans with all forms of TB, regales of geographic locations, gender, age, religion tribe or other affiliations.”