For a number of years, Malawi has been implementing the Directly Observed Treatment Short (Dots) course, endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is the recommended strategy for TB control.
But Malawi needs to further expand TB interventions as the disease is still a major health concern for the nation and other developing countries because of its apparent link to HIV/Aids, says WHO Global TB Programme director Mario Raviglione.
“The Malawi government needs to fully embrace sustainable development goal 3 which calls on governments to ensure healthy lives of their people and promote the well-being for all,” he said.
TB patients in Malawi, like in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, face systemic stigma and discrimination in the wake of the HIV/Aids pandemic.
The Malawian government, through the Malawi National TB Control Programme, says it is leaving no stone unturned to achieve “zero TB deaths” .
Chief of Health Services Dr Charles Mwansambo noted that TB was the leading killer of people living with HIV/Aids in sub-Saharan Africa.
“In Malawi, 64 percent of TB patients are infected with HIV. TB and HIV/Aids constitute a deadly combination,” he said.
The Ministry of Health said it had set an ambitious target of creating a TB-free Malawi by next year. To achieve this, the country was decentralising TB services to increase accessibility to diagnosis and treatment. Since Malawi started implementing the Dots strategy, TB case notification increased steadily between 1995 and 2003, reaching a peak of 28 000 people diagnosed with TB.
“We have since observed a decrease and in 2012, 20 000 cases were reported,” the ministry said, adding that the death rate among patients dropped from 20 percent in 2003 to 7 percent in 2014.