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COVID-19 must not reverse gains in TB fight: Chiwenga

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BY PHYLLIS MBANJE VICE-PRESIDENT and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga yesterday said COVID-19 mitigation measures must not reverse gains made by the country to end tuberculosis (TB). Speaking during commemorations of World TB Day in Harare, Chiwenga expressed concern that health workers’ focus had shifted to COVID-19, thereby sidelining efforts to combat TB. “Our efforts and […]

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

VICE-PRESIDENT and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga yesterday said COVID-19 mitigation measures must not reverse gains made by the country to end tuberculosis (TB).

Speaking during commemorations of World TB Day in Harare, Chiwenga expressed concern that health workers’ focus had shifted to COVID-19, thereby sidelining efforts to combat TB.

“Our efforts and focus on COVID-19 should not make us forget that TB remains one of our major public health threats. 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,” Chiwenga said.

Many TB patients experienced insurmountable challenges in accessing treatment while several others missed out because TB symptoms were similar to those of COVID-19.

“A TB-free Zimbabwe is possible, but only if we work together,” he said as he thanked the World Health Organisation for its support in the national TB programme over the years.

The Health ministry and its partners have carried out TB screening among high-risk groups at community level using X-ray and GeneXpert machines since 2014.

World Health Organisation country director Alex Gasasira said: “We have no doubt that working together, we can surmount the remaining barriers and ensure that Zimbabwe accelerates progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets for TB for the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe.”

Health ministry’s director for the Aids and TB unit Owen Mugurungi said: “We should not discriminate against people living with TB. Together we can end the scourge. We also need to end the stigma around TB.”

The commemorations, held under the theme The Clock is Ticking, also analysed the impact of TB and the many challenges bedevilling its management.

Follow Phyllis on Twitter  @pmbanje