DRC: Rise in TB cases linked to co-infection with HIV

Friday, March 28, 2008

Efforts to combat the spread of tuberculosis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been slowed down by the problem of TB patients also infected with HIV, local health officials said.

"The disease [TB] is on the increase because there is a link with HIV - there are co-infected patients. These are the patients who have caused the number of TB cases to be on the rise," said Guylaine Tshitenge, an activist of the NGO National anti-Tuberculosis League in Congo, during a march organised in Kinshasa on 24 March to mark the World Day to Combat Tuberculosis.

Minister of Health Makwenge Kaput said close to 100,000 cases of TB were recorded in DRC in 2006, ranking the country 11th of the 22 states most affected by tuberculosis in the world, and 4th in Africa.

"TB is still a serious public health problem despite the policy of free medication available across the country," said Makwenge.

He said people infected with TB took too long to seek treatment after developing the first cough, one of the symptoms of the disease.

"So they continue not only transmitting germs of tuberculosis in the community, but they also run the risk of dying of this disease," Makwenge added.

According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Tuberculosis Control 2008 released on 17 March, the pace of progress to control the TB epidemic slowed slightly in 2006. From 2001 to 2005, the average rate at which new TB cases were detected was increasing by six percent per year, but between 2005 and 2006 that rate of increase was cut in half, to three percent.

The agency attributed the slowdown in detection to the fact that some national programmes that were making rapid progress were unable to continue at the same pace in 2006.

"Moreover, in most African countries there has been no increase in the detection of TB cases through national programmes. Other studies have also shown that many patients are treated by private care providers, and by non-governmental, faith-based and community organisations, thus escaping detection by the public programmes," the report said.

Tuberculosis is an airborne infectious disease. People with the TB bacteria in their lungs can infect others when they cough.

An estimated 1.5 million people died from TB in 2006, according to WHO. Another 200,000 people with HIV died from HIV-associated TB.

Source: PlusNews