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Uganda starts mass TB screening

Tuesday March 15 2022
Health officers

Health officers sensitise some bus terminal workers before Tuberculosis (TB) screening at Namayiba Bus Terminal on March 13, 2022. PHOTO | DAILY MONITOR

By Daily Monitor

Uganda government has started a five-day mass tuberculosis screening to curb the spread of the disease. 

The exercise, which is happening ahead of the World TB Day commemoration on March 24 in Lira, is being supported by the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) of Makerere University and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

A visit by our reporters yesterday found that the exercise is taking place in Kampala public places such as bus parks while others are also being screened for HIV/Aids.

Health experts say people with HIV/Aids have a higher chance of TB infection because of reduced immunity.

Dr Mubarak Mwikiriize, the TB programme officer at IDI, told Daily Monitor yesterday that the turn-out at Kisenyi Bus Park is so far very good. 

Dr Mwikiriize said they chose the place because the available data indicates a higher risk of TB and HIV/Aids in such places. 

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“We were targeting bus drivers, conductors and guides but more people want to be tested. We plan to test 120 people per day [at this point] and we are handling 12 per hour. The exercise started at 10 am and it is running until 5pm,” he said.

Ms Suzan Asasira from USAID Local Partners in Health Services unit said they are  screening and sensitising both the drivers and passengers about the diseases.

She said: “We targeting bus terminals because they deal with a lot of people that come from different places, so they have a high exposure for TB and HIV.”

Ms Asasira said  USAID, Kampala Capital City Authority and Ministry of Health will offer free counselling and medicine to the patients.

Dr Stavia Turyahabwe, the assistant commissioner for the National TB and Leprosy Programme, said 90,000 Ugandans contract TB every year.

TB is an infectious disease that spreads through the air from a TB infected person. The disease mainly affects the lungs. 

The common signs and symptoms of TB include coughing for three or more weeks, coughing blood or mucus, chest pain, weight loss, night sweating, fever, among others. 

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said the campaign involves door-to-door screening by “village health teams (VHTs) and hot spot screening/outreach activity by health care workers to reach those who will not be at home at the time of the VHT visit but have increased risk of getting TB disease.”

She said the funding for the district level activities will be from the respective implementing partners.  

“The government of Uganda through the Ministry of Health has invested significantly in strengthening the diagnosis and treatment at health facilities to improve Tuberculosis case detection through improving coverage of WHO-recommended rapid molecular tests like X-pert MTB/Rif (281 machines now in the country),” she said.

She added: “The expansion in diagnostics helped us to reach the highest ever TB treatment coverage of 84 percent in 2020/21. This is significant progress from 2015 when we were missing nearly half of the people with tuberculosis disease each year.”

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