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Ministry of Health embarks on screening health workers for TB

Ministry of Health is running a wellness clinic to screen for tuberculosis and educate the Ministry staff, family members and visitors on TB. PHOTO via @MinofHealthUG

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | After research showed that health workers are three times more at risk of getting infected with Tuberculosis (TB) than other people who get in contact with patients, the Ministry of Health has embarked on having them screened and link those that test positive to care immediately.

At the launch of the TB wellness clinic at the Ministry of Health Headquarters on Tuesday Dr Simon Muchuro, a TB programme official said a nationwide survey done among over 80,000 participants to establish prevalence found that while among the general population 150 per 100,000 people tested positive, the number tripled for health workers at 450 per 100,000 people.

He noted that in that study, 5,000 participants were presumed to have TB by looking at their symptoms and 160 others were confirmed by a TB culture test. However, he said of the 160 that were confirmed positive, half at 81 had none of the symptoms and would have been missed a confirmatory test had not been conducted.

Speaking at the launch event, Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng said that research has shown many people get infected with the respiratory disease from the workplace. She said the challenge is that a lot of health workers silently suffer from the disease and have not screened themselves despite constant interactions with the sick.

The Permanent Secretary Dr Diana Atwiine said they have started screening staff of the Ministry of Health and Mulago hospital staff will follow later.

The biggest risk factors for TB are under nutrition, followed by HIV where TB comes as an opportunistic infection, uncontrolled alcohol consumption, smoking and diabetes.

As of last year, 34,000 people living with HIV acquired TB. Also, some 1,500 people acquired the drug-resistant strain of TB that requires more advanced and expensive treatments. Of these 516 were confirmed to have this strain and 505 were started on second-line treatment.

As a result of such, 53% of the people on the treatment of TB face catastrophic treatment costs as 15% of Financing in 2019 remained unfunded.

The government funds less than 5% of the TB response even as the budget for the disease was $37million last year, mostly contributed by the Global Fund.

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