– Lack of knowledge and awareness a major concern
Guyana is set to sign a new grant agreement for approximately US$3M with the Global Fund. This new proposal will enable Guyana to further expand the fight against tuberculosis; this is according to the Ministry of Health in a statement released yesterday.
The Ministry of Health said that by 1970, Guyana had joined many countries in the world in making progress towards reducing and controlling tuberculosis (TB). And by 2007, the small National Tuberculosis Programme Unit (NTP) in Georgetown was expanded. The NTP extended the Directly Observed Treatment Short Course Strategy (DOTS) programme to all ten administrative regions, allowing citizens in each region to access free TB services at their regional hospitals.
The fight to STOP TB in Guyana was further enhanced with major financial support from the Global Fund which commenced in 2005.
According to the Ministry of Health, by 2009, twenty laboratories were equipped to do sputum microscopy (TB screening) and 15 TB centres providing treatment across the ten regions.
In addition, the National Tuberculosis Programme Unit had in its employ key staff in the core areas of the Tuberculosis Programme, allowing for the specialisation and enhancement of service delivery in the fight against tuberculosis in Guyana.
The incidence rate for TB in 2007 was 93 per 100,000 population and in 2009 it was 83 per 100,000 population; this clearly indicates that Guyana has shown the first signs since the early 1980s of slowing down the progression of the TB epidemic.
The Ministry further revealed the National Tuberculosis Programme Unit (NTP) was successful in securing additional funds in the Round 8 Global Fund Tuberculosis Grant process and these additional funds are expected to become available shortly.
This grant will continue to support the efforts to STOP TB in Guyana with focus to increase diagnostic capacity and introduce drug sensitivity testing at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory in the near future, as well as implementation of a vigorous tuberculosis awareness programme.
“The Public Health Laboratory is developing capacity to detect resistance TB. This is important, since MDR (Multi-Drug Resistance TB) is on the rise in most countries and Guyana must prepare itself for the emergence of MDR here.”
Guyana is developing PCR techniques for detection of difficult to detect cases of TB. With continued support from Global Fund, CDC and PAHO/WHO, while in 2010 major education awareness for Guyanese of TB is underway in schools and communities.
The Ministry of Health stated there are plans in 2010 to refurbish the old building in which the National Tuberculosis Programme Unit is currently housed, and also to establish by 2011 an in-patient facility dedicated for the management of tuberculosis cases.
With the limited capacity of the current Infectious Disease Ward at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, the in-patient facility will allow for the separation of infectious TB cases from patients with other infectious diseases, thereby reducing the threat of cross- transmission of TB.
The statement indicated that there will be improvement for case detection and management of prisoners with TB, which has improved with greater involvement of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the prison authorities.
The Ministry of Health is working closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide support to the Prison Authority in building its capacity to manage TB in the prisons.
According to the Minister of Health, Guyana has a chance to bring TB under control. “We must seize the opportunities now. I am calling on every citizen and all stakeholders to work with us to tame this ancient scourge.”
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