Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health (MoH) Shenaaz El Halabi says the emergence of Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR TB) threatens the country‚Äôs achievements of reducing TB cases in the last three decades.
Addressing journalists this week, El Halabi said the media was in a good position to raise awareness on pertinent health issues, such as TB and HIV including MDR TB. “You have a role to play in creating service provision and keeping us as services providers accountable to the communities we serve,” she said.
El Halabi further said it was important that the media and the service providers open their communication channels to ensure smooth flow of up-to-date information on health issues. El Halabi noted that Botswana had established the TB programme 40 years ago with the vision of seeing the country TB free. “Botswana saw an initial decrease in TB cases until the late 1980s when the first HIV cases were diagnosed in the country,” she said. She also said a number of TB cases then increased exponentially from 5,000 cases a year in 1990 to 12,000 in 2002. “This underscores HIV as the main driver, fuelling the TB epidemic in Botswana.”
El Halabi said HIV prevalence remained among the highest globally, standing at 18.5% in the general population of approximately 1.2 million. She said to date, more than 95% of the people in need of TB treatment were on Antiretroviral Treatment (ART).
El Halabi also said MDR complicated the country’s national response to TB, adding that they confirmed close to 100 new cases of MDR annually.