•Despite the progress, Kenya is still ranked high among the 30 countries that contribute to 80 per cent of the global TB burden
•Similarly, Kenya still faces the challenge of getting everybody who has been infected with TB going for diagnosis and being put on treatment
Health experts from Africa dealing in Tuberculosis this week held a high level meeting in Nairobi.
The two-day meeting brought together experts from more than 15 countries in the region to among others take stock of the progress made in the fight against TB on the continent.
The experts also seek to unpack the commitments made by Heads of State during the United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) held in New York in September.
From the meeting, it was noted that Kenya is on the right track towards the elimination of Tuberculosis but more needs to be done.
Data reveals that Kenya has made progress in trying to reduce the TB burden and TB-related deaths.
It was noted that Kenya has been able to reduce deaths caused by TB about 44 per cent from 33,000 in 2019 to 21,000 by 2021.
The country has also managed to reduce new infections and become one of the few countries that managed to meet the targets that had been set for 2020 and 2022.
However, despite the progress, Kenya is still ranked high among the 30 countries that contribute to 80 per cent of the global TB burden and is ranked fourth in Africa after South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Similarly, Kenya still faces the challenge of getting everybody who has been infected with TB going for diagnosis and being put on treatment, with about 49 per cent of people who have TB still walking in the streets without having been diagnosed and being treated.
Awareness about the disease is still low with the country now being challenged to invest in TB awareness especially at community level to make as one of the preventive measures.
“Prevention means that we have created awareness among the population, we have told them what they need to do about prevention so that we can reduce new infections,” National Coordinator Stop TB Partnership Kenya Everlyn Kibuchi said.
Despite there being medical interventions for prevention such the TB Preventive Therapy (TPT), Kenya is yet to roll out this intervention.
TPT is medicine given to someone who is not infected with TB but they are vulnerable or they have been exposed to it, such as people who stay in a family which has someone infected with TB.
Such people are supposed to take the medicine as it prevents them from getting infected.
“This medicine is a short-term medicine taken for one or two months depending on what is available wherever you are. Unfortunately, much as we have that available, we have not been able to roll it out at the country level,” Kibuchi said.
Similarly, the country is yet to invest in infrastructure that promotes prevention of TB infections in the community.
For instance, the housing especially in the informal settlements and the matatu sector remains a breeding ground for the disease.
This is due to the fact that TB gets transmitted so easily in areas that are not well ventilated and places that are congested.
“We need to bring on board the ministry concerned with construction so that we can implement the policy for improved prevention in housing and also in the transport sector like in the matatus.”
It has also been noted that Kenya is yet to invest in the diagnosis and treatment of latent TB due to the high cost involved.
Latent TB is TB that is lying inactive in the body but develops into the disease when it is exposed to conditions that are favorable for them to develop into TB.
“We have that intervention that can treat that latent TB so that you don’t have that bacteria but we have not been able to roll it out because it involves expensive diagnosis which is not freely available,” Kibuchi said.
The Head of regional marketing for QIAGEN Jacqueline Karachi said even though the African continent is making positive progress, the fight is far from over.
She noted that for more results to be seen, the continent needs political commitment from the leadership towards combating TB.
She noted that a lot of investment and emphasis should be put on TB just as the effort has been seen in the elimination of HIV and malaria, adding that TB is a disease that affects all people in the population irrespective of age and social status.
“What we need to continue to see is the political commitment coming from our leadership for TB inasmuch as we are talking about HIV and malaria we need to keep the focus also on TB,” Karachi said.
“The burden is there, it is high and it cuts across the all population in our communities from the elderly to the young to the immune-compromised and the burden of latent TB is also very high so it needs to be addressed.
The high-level meeting is being hosted by Stop TB Partnership Kenya in collaboration with QIAGEN, a leading innovator in TB treatment solutions.