The Ministry of Health commissioned a $100M Tuberculosis Programme Unit at the Georgetown Hospital as part of this year’s observances aimed at eradicating the disease.
The Unit aims to increase national efforts and awareness of the disease in the light of an upsurge in cases globally. The Unit, comprising a chest clinic which has already been commissioned, the TB programme Unit and an inpatient facility which is under construction, attracted scores of persons on its opening on National Tuberculosis Day.
According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release, Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy called on the private sector, NGOs and developing countries to address some of the constraints such as enhancing medication which had been developed in the late 1950s and 60s, providing medication for paediatric cases and additional testing sites.
“Like many countries around the world, developing and developed, TB is still a big public health problem in Guyana. It is a global health problem and lives ominously alongside HIV,” Ramsammy said, while adding that government has been successful in delivering a response that has decreased incidences of the disease and its related crises. “Tuberculosis persistence and its acceleration over the last 30-years around the world has not only been driven by HIV, it has also been driven by the fact that there are increasingly better chances for the spread of TB unless we recognise the catalysts and remove them from their potential roles,” he said.
GINA said there are currently 20 TB testing sites countrywide, which will soon be complemented with sites at Mahaicony, Kamarang and on the East Bank Demerara. Government is also looking to introduce a new rapid test for TB as soon as it becomes available. There are currently nine million new infections and about 1.7 million deaths caused by TB every year worldwide.
Ramsammy said while there is improved access to treatment for the disease, there are also certain risk factors that are to be addressed. “Every country has now documented cases of MDR (Multi Drug Resistant). This is a new global challenge and represents a serious public health threat. In Guyana, we have not yet experienced a high level of MDR cases, although we have documented about five cases so far. For this reason we will have to introduce greater vigilance and ensure that there is 100 percent compliance with medication among those who are being treated,” he said.
The release said between 2007 and 2010, Guyana has seen a reduction in incidence of Tuberculosis. In 2007, it was recorded at 93 persons for every 100,000 persons in the population, while in 2010 the statistics were 89 for every 100,000 in 2010.