Ghana in November last year recorded its first case of Extensively Drug Resistant TB (EDR-TB), Dr Frank Bonsu, the Programme Manager of the National Tuberculosis (TB) Control Programme (NTCP) disclosed on Friday.
This, he said, posed a serious danger to the country, should the situation explode, and called for a multi-sectoral collaboration and approach towards the sustenance of strategies and interventions aimed at preventing, controlling and eliminating TB in Ghana.
He, however, explained that although the patient passed on, the NTCP had initiated a close surveillance of the closed relations and community from where the deceased had lived, whilst the Nouguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, which earlier diagnosed the case, had gone further to screened all the relatives and close associates to ensure their safety.
Dr Bonsu made the disclosure in Accra, at the media launch of the 2018 World TB Day, which falls annually on March 24, but would be commemorated nationally on the 22nd under the global theme: “Wanted: Leaders for TB-Free World”, but had been domesticated to be “You can make History. End TB”, to encourage all Ghanaians to maintain the momentum to eliminate the disease by 2030.
This year’s World TB Day is being organised in partnership with the Ghana Journalists Association.
He, therefore, called on the media to intensify their advocacy and public education on the need for early diagnosis of TB, as well as sustained treatment for at least six months, and advised persons with symptoms including feverishness, excessive sweating at night, and prolonged cough with blood stained sputum, to desist from self-medication, but to report immediately to the nearest health facility for screening and treatment.
Dr Bonsu again advocated a strong leadership that would be accountable for the promotion, strengthening and expansion of social intervention programmes such as the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), to protect persons living with TB and their families, as the disease was a pro-poor issue.
“About 35 per cent of TB patients are not on the NHIS due to various reasons of which financial limitations have been cited as the cause, therefore reaching them had very difficult,” he added.
He said instituting measures to cushion the financial needs of patients, would minimise the catastrophic cost of TB treatment, which although covered under the NHIS, went beyond just the drug regimen to involve patient’s welfare issues such as transportation to and from health facilities throughout the period, and also their nutritional needs, which was very key to the successes of the curative process.
There was also the need for leadership for the fight against drug-resistant TB, and to further initiate strong moves for the local mobilisation of funding to sustain the NTCP’s programmes and activities in the current absence of the assistance that used to be received from the Global Fund.
Mr Roland Affail Monney, the President of the Ghana Journalists Association, said his outfit was committed to partner with the NTCP to eliminate TB, saying it was unacceptable that although the disease was preventable and curable, many Ghanaians still suffered under its cruelty due to the lack of funding.
He, however, stated that although there were emerging issues militating against TB control that required urgent actions, but some lessons had also been learnt from the past, to accelerate ending the TB epidemic, and these included untold successes to be shared especially by the media, for multi-sectorial response.
He said since TB was more of a social than a health issue, increased awareness would eliminate the myths and stigma attached to it by society, and aid people in making informed choices, influence policy decisions, as well as set a national agenda towards accelerating programmes towards the eradication of the disease.
He called on all institutions both public, private as well as individuals and media organisations, to support the worthy course of eliminating TB through strengthened collaboration, and financially assisting the NTCP to fend for patients in order to prevent multi-drug resistance resulting especially, from the lack of the strict adherence of patient to their medication.