Namibia Losing TB Battle
March 25, 2003
Posted to the web March 25, 2003
NAMIBIA is failing to stem the rising
tide of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)
released a new TB report on World TB Day yesterday saying
Namibia has a 98 per cent detection rate but only half of
these cases are being treated successfully.
The revelation of the
"substantially below average" success rate follows a
warning by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria about
the "very low" success rate of the TB programme.
The WHO report says only half the cases
detected during each of the past six years were successfully
treated through the Directly Observed Treatment, Short course
or DOTS strategy.
WHO has set the target rate for success
at 75 per cent.
In 1996 the treatment success rate in
Namibia was 54 per cent, in 1997 it was 58 per cent, 60 per
cent in 1998, 50 per cent in 1999 and 53 per cent in the year
The detection rate differed from 75 per
cent to 98 per cent over the same period.
The seventh WHO annual report on global
TB control says the incidence rate of the disease is growing
at approximately 0,4 per cent a year, but much faster in
sub-Saharan Africa and in countries of the former Soviet
The report notes that six per cent of
the 4 013 cases registered in 2000 ended in deaths while 14
per cent of the patients failed to complete the treatment
In 1998, some 1 456 deaths were
attributed to TB.
Between 1995 and 2000, TB cases
increased at an average rate of 10 per cent a year.
The WHO says the co-infection of TB and
HIV-AIDS, as well as multi-drug resistance to the disease, are
major factors leading to the low success rate of the programme.
They also blamed patients who abandon
The development of multidrug-resistant
strains has been on the increase, caused by inconsistent or
partial treatment of ordinary TB.
Drug-resistant strains can cost up to
N$25 000 to treat, as opposed to N$250 to treat a new
At best, only half of those infected
with the new strains can be cured.
The poor TB success rate has also been
attributed to the stigma surrounding HIV-AIDS, since the two
are linked and many people are ashamed to be identified with
TB is the second leading cause of death
in Namibia and is responsible for 16 per cent of institutional
deaths and a significant number of inpatient and outpatient
Under the DOTS strategy a person
diagnosed with TB has to take medication every day for six
For those who do not, TB can be deadly.
One person can infect up to 15 others.
DOTS, which has achieved 95 per cent
cure rates in countries such as China, Peru and the US, was
implemented in Namibia in 1996.
When drug treatment stops, the body
builds up resistance to medication, reducing options for