MASERU- Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem in Lesotho, with an estimated prevalence of 788 per 100,000 people. The country has the second highest per capita burden in the world and statistics indicate that about 72 percent of TB cases are also co-infected with HIV.
TB has been a cause for concern for some time now, killing HIV infected people so much that even though TB incidences have declined from 852 to 788 deaths per 1000, many people still lack education on how to take their treatment and survive.
In Lesotho, TB is associated with HIV and AIDS co-infection, as well as social problems, difficulties in patient adherence and the threat of resistance against anti-tuberculosis drugs.
TB Program Manager at the Ministry of Health, Dr Llang Maama said even though TB incidence has declined in Lesotho from being the highest in the world and now to second highest, there were still many people who died of TB as many TB patients do not take their medications as expected.
She said as they will be commemorating World TB Day on the 24th of March, they have worked hard to ensure that people know about TB and take action against it for prevention. , test and treatment and that they have also improved the services by training nurses, doctors and village health workers on TB/HIV treatment.
Dr Maama said the ministry was working with other stakeholders as well as village health workers and community leaders and chiefs to ensure that TB patients get treatment on time. She added that the global target was to have at least 90 percent TB patients cured, but they only managed 71 percent while 12 percent died and 16 percent were lost to follow up.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) Global TB Report 2008, in Lesotho approximately 23 percent of the adult population are living with HIV, 76 percent of detected TB patients are co-infected with HIV, and 48 percent of persons with TB are HIV-positive
The rate of HIV infection among adults in Lesotho is one of the highest in the world at 25 percent, and as HIV has taken its toll, the country has also suffered rising rates of maternal mortality, poor child health, and tuberculosis
Dr Maama said they have been also dealing with MDR Tb which has been seen rapidly growing as many people stop getting treatment along the way.
She said the ministry has acquired new TB testing equipment to help speed up the tests and to detect it through HIV positive and children which was not possible before.
She further added that they are still working hard to reach everyone in the country as they will be launching the TB implementation manual to enable them to work with all stakeholders to reach every one for tests and the follow- ups so they can reach 90 percent global target of TB survival.