WINDHOEK: Namibia has recorded significant improvements in its proportion of tuberculosis (TB) patients with a known HIV status, which allows for improved treatment of people with both diseases.
The percentage of TB patients with a known HIV status increased from 75 per cent in 2010 to 84 per cent in 2011.
Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi on Wednesday said one of the major drivers of TB in Namibia is the HIV epidemic, with about 50 per cent of TB patients reported in 2011 also infected with HIV.
He was speaking here during the launch of the third edition of the National Guidelines for the Management of Tuberculosis.
The minister said the increase in TB patients with a known HIV status allows Namibia to offer comprehensive care to those affected by both diseases, which in turn improves treatment outcomes.
“With 10 805 new and relapsed cases of TB in 2011, which represents a notification rate of 513 cases per 100 000, Namibia remains amongst the worst-affected countries in the world,” Kamwi stated.
He added that this, however, represents significant improvements from the notification rate of 589 cases per 100 000 reported in 2010.
The minister stressed that improvements have also been seen in the treatment success rate, which stood at 85 per cent in 2010. The revised international target is 90 per cent.
Kamwi noted that it is internationally recognised that the diagnosis of TB in people living with HIV is challenging, since the traditional test tends to miss many TB cases in these patients.
He said this led to the search for tests that are more suitable for the detection of TB among people living with HIV, such as the Xpert MTB/RIF test.
Xpert MTB/RIF is a cartridge-based, automated diagnostic test that can identify Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (MTB), the bacterium which causes TB; and resistance to rifampicin (RIF), an antibiotic drug used in the treatment of TB.
Despite significant progress in ensuring that TB patients are successfully treated, Kamwi said, treatment is failing in an increasing number of patients because of multidrug-resistant TB.
He said this form of TB has become the greatest threat to the achievement of national TB control targets, with 192 cases being recorded in 2011.
Kamwi stressed that the diagnosis of these cases using traditional tests can take up to two months, and patients can continue to unknowingly spread the disease while waiting for the results.
“The need for faster tests in this regard is therefore overwhelming,” he said.
The first edition of the National Guidelines for the Management of Tuberculosis was released in 1995, followed by a second edition published in 2006.