, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – As Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the world Tuberculosis day, it is worth to note that TB cases are on the decline with 83,000 patients being recorded in 2015 compared to a peak of 130,000 patients in 2007.
Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Nicholas Muraguri says this can be attributed to specialised health care personnel as well as availability and accessibility to drugs.
“High success rates have been recorded amongst new TB patients at 86pc, previously treated patients at 78pc, TB-HIV patients at 79pc and drug resistant TB patients at 83pc,” cited Muraguri adding, “This is very high compared to the rest of the world where the treatment average is between 40-50pc.”
“At least 12,000 deaths associated with TB are recorded annually,” Muraguri stated, “Equally many people with TB symptoms seek diagnosis when it’s too late while others don’t report at all.”
Over the past 10 years, a total of 1.2 million Kenyans have been diagnosed with TB with 1 million patients treated successfully.
This can be attributed to the adoption of new technology called the GeneXpert which gives rapid diagnosis of TB and its drug resistant variant in under two hours.
“In 2015, some 80,000 Kenyans were tested for TB using this technology up from 20,000 in 2014,” noted Muraguri. “The combination of new interventions and others have averted an estimated 500,000 million TB deaths in the last 10 years.
However TB still ranks the 4th leading cause of deaths in Kenya.
Drug resistant TB remains a major health concern although a survey done last year shows it has slightly declined than previously thought.
It is estimated that more than half of the TB cases that occur go undetected.
“To find the missing drug resistant TB cases, the ministry now directs that from July 1, 2016 GeneXpert becomes the first test for all people suspected to have TB at facilities where the equipment is placed,” Muraguri said.
The TB/HIV co-infection rate in Kenya has also reduced from 70pc in 2010 to about 30pc in 2015 due to improved access to treatment.
“Kenya has achieved universal access for HIV testing among TB patients and universal access to ART for those living with HIV and TB,” stated Muraguri.
In Nairobi the cases have gone down but the county is still ranked first in TB burden at 15pc followed by Mombasa and Kisumu, stated Jonathan Mueke Deputy Governor Nairobi County.
“Last year alone over 12,000 TB cases were diagnosed and put on treatment.”
“Majority of the cases are reported to be from the urban settlements especially among the slum dwellers with poor living conditions being the major contributor.”
Mueke also noted that there is need to educate the public on the need to seek medical attention especially if one is having a persistent cough.
Speaking during the commemoration of world TB day, Mueke said consistent funding towards treating and eradicating TB is of essence to meet the strategies set by global health organizations.
“Currently the county spends more than Sh200million annually to treat and diagnose TB,” Mueke highlighted.
It is for this reason that the Ministry of Health is planning to open 100 clinics to handle TB cases in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu in the course of the year.
“Thirty percent of the annual 83,000 Tb cases reported are in urban settlements especially the slums in the 3 counties,” said Muraguri, “The clinics will not only provide access to care on TB but also HIV and emergency services.”
“Twenty clinics will be set up by end of May this year in Nairobi’s slums i.e. Mukuru kwa Njenga, Kibera among others,” he reiterated.
This year the Ministry of Health plans to enrol 800,000 people living with HIV on Isoniazid Preventive Therapy.
“The therapy will protect people with HIV from developing TB, including children under five who are in contact with persons with the disease,” stated Muraguri.
“This number will make Kenya the country with highest number of people accessing this intervention globally,” said Muraguri.
Although Kenya remains the first country in the sub Saharan Africa to reach the world health organization targets for case detection and treatment success, there is need to address the funding gap which still remains substantial in the fight against TB.