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Mar 24, 2004

Health Ministry to take TB initiative to communities

By Shirley Thomas

As part of Government's commitment to the "Stop TB" (Tuberculosis) initiative, the Ministry of Health is using the DOTS (Direct Observed Therapy - Short Course Strategy) to take the treatment programme to communities. To this end, and as part of its observance of World Tuberculosis Day on Wednesday, the ministry launched the DOTS programme at Enmore Polyclinic.

DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short course) is the international standard for TB treatment, and are the program strategy supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who delivered the feature address at the launch, noted that tuberculosis, one of the oldest pandemics previously brought under control, has made a re-emergence. It is now teaming up with HIV to become one of the leading causes of death globally.

Studies show that one third of all persons living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are co-infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis (the germ that causes TB). Further, up to 70% of patients with sputum smear-positive pulmonary TB (the infectious form of TB affecting the lungs) is HIV-positive. It is also estimated that up to 50% of PWHA develop TB, and that only 20-25% of all TB patients worldwide have access to effective diagnosis and treatment.

According to Dr. Ramsammy, plans are on the cards in Guyana for the DOTS programme to be taken to every community, and this is being actively pursued with the help of other technical agencies such as the Canadian Health International Services - an arm of the Canadian International Development Agency; the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), and others. Director of Medical Services, Dr. Madan Rambarran, said problems with resistance to the medication can develop, creating problems for the person on medication.

The Minister commended the assistance of other agencies which partner with the Ministry of Health, to ensure that the DOTS Programme reaches every community, and that there is a better managerial system in dealing with the disease in the communities. Agencies identified were: the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO); the Canadian International Development Agency; the Red Cross; the National Chest Society and others.

TB clinics are now being conducted in Berbice, Linden, Essequibo, and West Demerara, Dr. Ramsammy said. He said that plans are also afoot to reach the hinterland, making it a truly national programme.

Other speakers - Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, PAHO's Resident Representative; Dr. Madan Rambarran, Head of Administrative Services, GPHC and Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Head of the Tuberculosis Department all concurred that the programme had made great strides locally. And Project Manager of CSIH, Ms. Suzanne Marquis, noting that more DOTS workers will soon be coming on board, stated that her department is proud to be working with a team as dedicated as those of the Ministry of Health. She opined that TB can be stopped with the willingness and help of all.

Please see our news article on World TB Day activities in Guyana and Canada.