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An estimated 20,000 TB cases go unidentified, untreated in Zambia – USAID

DESPITE the many strides we have made towards elimination, there are still an estimated 20,000 TB cases that go unidentified and thus untreated in Zambia, says USAID Mission director Sheryl Stumbras.

On the World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2021, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to stand with Zambia in the fight against infectious diseases such as TB, which is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality countrywide.

According to a statement from the US Embassy, the US government’s investments to combat TB in Zambia include training health care workers, improving infection control, purchasing TB drugs and other key commodities, strengthening lab systems, and community outreach.

USAID stated that this year had been particularly challenging for health care systems across the world, including Zambia.

It stated that together with the Ministry of Health, the US government was encouraged by Zambia’s continued progress in reducing illness and death due to TB, despite the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Together, we identified and put 40,000 additional Zambians on TB treatment in the past year alone. And, our collective efforts did not stop with Zambians who currently have TB,” Stumbras stated. “In addition, 365,000 were able to access TB preventive therapy in the past year alone, putting Zambia on the path to eliminate TB in the future.”

USAID stated that innovations like the virtual TB Situation Room, multi-month dispensing of HIV and TB drugs, alternative drug pick up points, and phone and SMS patient follow-up methods had made it possible for patients infected with TB to access care and adhere to their treatment regime while limiting their exposure to COVID-19.

It stated that the virtual TB Situation Room, established at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zambia to monitor trends in TB, proved particularly important to maintain progress in the fight to eliminate TB.

USAID stated that the TB Situation Room reviews weekly data with provincial and district level staff to share best practices, discuss challenges, and review data together.

It stated that this had resulted in real time identification of problem zones and action on immediate life-saving remediation measures.

“The theme of 2021’s World TB Day is ‘TB is still among us, let us end TB together’. This theme reminds us there is still much work left to do to end TB,” noted Stumbras. “Despite the many strides we have made towards elimination, there are still an estimated 20,000 TB cases that go unidentified and thus untreated in Zambia. As we look forward to a TB-free Zambia, we must prioritise the identification and treatment of the undiagnosed, with a special focus on finding and treating drug resistant TB.”

It stated that since 2004, the U.S. government had invested approximately $190 million toward Zambia’s TB response, with additional support for HIV and TB co-infection provided through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

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