Ghana aims to end Tuberculosis (TB) and it related lung diseases by 2030, with the introduction of a new sophisticated diagnostic technology known as the Genexpert by the end of the year.
Chairman of the 20th Conference of the Union Africa Region on Lung Health, Dr Frank Bonsu, said the new technology allowed for the molecular test for TB, and could diagnose the presence of the smallest of the bacteria, as well as test for resistance to the drug Rifampicin.
He was addressing a press conference on Tuesday, prior to the official opening of the four-day Conference, which brought together more than 800 delegates from Africa and around the world to discuss ways of reducing and eliminating Tb from the Continent.
The conference is on the theme: “Accelerating implementation through partnerships to end TB, HIV/AIDS, Tobacco and other related NCDs”. Dr Bonsu who is also the Programme Manager of the Ghana’s National TB Control Programme, said although Ghana has over the years achieved a lot in the area of fighting TB with new technologies and methodologies, there still remained a huge gap as a result of the large numbers of undetected cases.
He said ideally, the country was expected to diagnose 44,000 TB cases per year, but was currently detecting only 15,000 per year due to challenges such as the lack of modern diagnostic equipment, limited capacity of Microbiologists, low reporting of cases resulting from poor awareness creation and the fear of infected being stigmatised.
He said the introduction of the Genexpert technology, and the shown commitment from government, bringing great hope to the country’s effort to end TB.
He however called for the need to strengthen stakeholder partnership to change the negative language used in describing TB and its related lung ailments, adding, “This will go long way to help eradicate the stigma, myths and misconceptions associated with the disease.
Dr Bonsu said TB was curable and the media must help in raising public awareness to the fact and also re-echo the fact that treatment was free and accessible at any health facility across the country.
He noted that the National TB Control Programme had changed its focus from the situation where cases had to find their way to health facilities, to the current strategy of reaching out to risk communities with diagnostic services, as a way of encouraging early diagnosis, treatment and eliminate stigma.
Dr Jeremiah Chakaya Muhwa, the President of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, said the Conference would offer an important opportunity for delegates to co-ordinate their responses to existing and new challenges in global lung health and connect the science community with broader networks and audiences.