Written by Antony Aisi
As a testimony of the successes to its war against tuberculosis, health officials in Kenya have welcome the news that the WHO has now placed the country at position 15 among 22 most TB-burdened countries.
Dr Joseph Sitienei, head of TB programme in Kenya says the new ranking is testimony of the successes of the fight against the tuberculosis.
With a case notification rate of 338 per 100, 000 population in 2006 to 28 per 100, 000 in 2009, Kenya now ranks at position five in Africa.
The high occurrence of TB disease in Kenya is mainly attributed to poverty and HIV infection. A HIV positive person is more likely to contract TB as a result of the weakened immune system.
About 44 per cent of TB patients in Kenya are HIV infected. TB is also closely linked to poverty as it is the economically and socially disadvantaged groups that stand a higher chance of contracting the disease.
TB affects the most economically productive age group of between 15-54, which explains the close link between the disease and poverty.
To help in the fight against TB, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, JICA granted the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation some 102 fluorescent microscopes to help boost the TB diagnostic capacity. The country also received additional 37 such microscopes from the TBCARE.
USAID also donated three gene expert machines in addition to three from the World Bank. All these were delivered to diagnostic sites that are spread throughout the country in bid to improve diagnostic capacity, which is key in the fight against TB.
However, according to Sitienei, the successes achived in TB control are threatened by the emergency of drug resistant TB strains.
He said with over 600 cumulative cases of MDR-TB reported in Kenya, the fight against TB is more challenging especially owing to the high cost of treatment as well as the complexities of treatment and management.
So far, the country has more than 334 cases of MDR-TB cases on treatment in 101 treatment sites scattered in the country.