By Reagan Malumo
Caprivi Regional Governor Leonard Mwilima has described the dual infection of TB and HIV/AIDS as crippling to the Namibian economy as it robs the country of its productive workforce.
He said Namibia has been experiencing a decline in work productivity due to the jeopardized health, nutrition, sanitation, safety, education and care in the country.
He said the effects of these diseases burden Namibia’s workforce and essentially stunt the necessary socio-economic growth on the path towards
“We therefore need to remain proactive, focused, tireless and united in our responses against these two epidemics.”
He was speaking at the commemoration of World TB Day at Katima Mulilo over the weekend. He emphasized the need for an inter-sectoral approach and strong community involvement to help reduce the diseases.
He also applauded international organizations such as the US Government, Global Fund, WHO and UNICEF for their tireless support.
“I call upon all stakeholders to refocus attention to the dual epidemic of TB and HIV/AIDS,” he said, adding that it requires a resolute commitment at all levels of public service, private sector, non-governmental organizations, churches, civil society and other development partners.
Mwilima urged all health workers to stay alert, diagnose and promptly educate patients, families and communities in all aspects of TB and to empower them to know the symptoms of the disease.
The theme for this year’s World TD Day is “Helping to stop TB”. He said communities and families are important agents for assisting individuals with persistent cough for more than three weeks to get tested for TB and comply with TB treatments.
According to the 2008 global TB reports by the World Health Organization (WHO), Namibia is ranked the country with the second highest TB incidence in the world, second after Swaziland.
About 15 244 cases of TB were reported in Namibia last year. This translates into a tuberculosis case notification rate of 722 cases per 100 000 population.
Out of this number, 5 114 cases involved infectious form of TB which can be transmitted from one person to another.
About 254 cases were multi-drug resistant TB under treatment countrywide with at least 11 cases coming from Caprivi.
Mwilima said this raises concern because it is a clear indication that it is only a matter of time before Caprivi is hit by extremely drug resistant (XDT) tuberculosis.
Meanwhile, the regions with the highest TB infections per 100 000 population in the country are Hardap, Erongo, Karas, Oshikoto, Caprivi, and Khomas.
Caprivi reported more than 700 cases per 100 000 population last year.
Mwilima stressed that the current TB situation in the country is exacerbated by the challenge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
HIV is a major individual risk factor for the development of tuberculosis.
A total of 8 186 TB patients representing 59 percent of the total notified TB patients were tested for HIV and the entire 59 percent were HIV-positive.