The ‘b TB free’ campaign was launched yesterday by the National Tuberculosis Programme (NTP) Unit in collaboration with the National AIDS Programme Secretariat (NAPS) to observe World TB Day.
Present at the launch, which was held at the Chest Clinic, was Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, NTP Programme Manager Dr. Jeetendra Mohanlall, Programme/Country Director FXB Guyana Nicole Jordan and NAPS Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Ganesh.
Ramsammy stated that through commitment and collaboration over several years, the TB epidemic has been reversed and the move towards elimination is in progress. He stated that he believes TB can be stopped but only if there was worldwide collaboration to deal with certain issues.
The minister said that unless the issues of treatment, the lack of pediatric formulations and better diagnostic tools are addressed with aggression, then “we cannot move forward in this fight against tuberculosis.”
He said further that not because the disease is an ancient one it should be treated with old medicines. He observed that the last medicine developed for the illness was in the 1960s and prior to that since the 1950s.
Currently, there are 20 testing sites in Guyana and there are plans in place to have these expanded. The minister added that there are also plans to have sites established in Kamarang, Mahaicony and Supply, East Bank Demerara.
Meanwhile Ramsammy said he was looking forward to a greater awareness of TB and the Health Ministry will complete a second Knowledge, Attitude, Perception and Belief (KAPB) survey. The first survey of this kind was done in 2008.
Ramsammy disclosed that over $500M will be spent this year in the fight against TB, while some radiology equipment, worth $35M, is expected in two weeks and the first digital x-ray system is to be introduced in the public sector.
Jordan, who has been working in Guyana since 2006, commended the training system, stating that Guyana has a lot of local experts who are capable of training and delivering care and treatment. She further declared that although she was leaving, it was a good thing. “It just means that we have completed our mandate,” she said.
Ganesh noted that the main aims of the campaign are to demonstrate how easily TB is spread and how infectious it is. She said also the campaign aimed to clear the myth that once you have TB, you then have HIV.
The campaign is being boosted through TV advertisements, brochures, posters, hats, T-shirts and other promotional aids.