Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (MLW) has advised government to consider devising holistic and low-cost strategies for containing tuberculosis (TB) in the country.
MLW Reader in Infectious and Tropical Diseases Liz Corbett said this at the opening of a two-day 2016 TB networking meeting in Lilongwe Thursday.
She suggested, among others, that authorities at the Ministry of Health should consider engaging informal healthcare providers as one way of increasing access to TB and HIV and Aids diagnostic services in the country.
Corbett said such a strategy could help ensure that everyone with TB and Aids has access to the innovative tools and services they need for rapid diagnosis, treatment and care.
“Thus, we need to make sure that we are offering people a chance to test for HIV as well as TB.
“We need to make it easier for people to test for TB, but also we have to make sure that, after testing negative, people get a chance for them to get to the next step to find out if they have another infection,” said Corbett.
Programme manager for the National TB Control Programme James Mpunga said preliminary results of a survey the programme conducted last year reveal that Malawi is diagnosing and treating only 50 percent of the total population of TB patients countrywide.
He attributed the development to the entrenched tendency among healthcare workers to “wait for patients to come forward”.
Said Mpunga: “And that is a wakeup call for us to stop sitting down and waiting for patients to come forward. Of course they will continue coming forward for screening. But we want our healthcare workers now to start going out and look for those cases.
“This strategy is called active case finding. And under this strategy, we have several initiatives, including procurement of the state-of-the-art equipment that will be used to screen people right in their villages.”
He said government will also adopt new technologies in the diagnosis and treatment of TB cases citing digital X-rays and Xpert MTB/RIF assay as some of the equipment they are planning to buy in the next five years as part of adopting new technology in the TB fight. n