The Sunday News
Tichafara Bepe, Sunday News Reporter
THE Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF)’s are working towards improving diagnosis, prevention and treatment of pediatric tuberculosis and have so far rolled out 20 pilot sites under the project.
The pilot centres are located in Harare, Bulawayo, Beitbridge and Chipinge.
AIDS and TB programmes, director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Owen Mugurungi said they had partnered EGPAF in the project after realising that pediatric TB was going unnoticed due to inability to diagnose it which made it the second highest killer in children after neonatal conditions.
“Government is working together with EGPAF to try and address the problems involved in pediatric TB. The main issue which has made pediatric TB problematic is diagnosis because most children can’t cough out sputum and their x-rays are not easy to detect TB from and specialists are required to do so unlike for adults.
“One of the major goals of this project is to help resolve this issue through developing the capacity to diagnose TB in children”, Dr Mugurungi said.
EGPAF said Catalysing Pediatric Tuberculosis Innovation (Cap TB) project was aiming to diagnose about 1 400 children with TB, provide treatment to about 1 300 children with TB and initiate treatment of over 9 000 children on TB preventive treatment.
“EGPAF is working with supported sites to train clinicians and community health workers on the use of revised guidelines and enhanced TB detection, as well as the use of innovative diagnostics and provision of quality TB care”, said Dr Tichaona Nyamundaya EGPAF acting country director.
“To further scale-up, TB case detection CaP TB will work to integrate TB with other health services, such as nutrition, maternal and child health and HIV-related services, to ensure all accessing those services are able to also access TB-specific care.”
The CaP TB programme is increasing the uptake of new pediatric fixed-dose combination medicines, as well as the roll-out of latent TB treatment, he added.
Dr Nyamundaya said TB affected many children in the country but was much higher in children living with HIV and Zimbabwe has a high HIV-TB co-infection rate of 52 percent according to the 2018 UNAIDS report.
“For children below five years, they are generally more at risk of being infected with TB whether they are HIV positive or not. If the infant is (HIV) positive the risk of infection is even higher.
“Usually children with TB have been exposed to an adult who passed on the infection to them. So we need to trace the people who would have come in contact with the kid who has TB.”
“So we also think it is important to collect data of how many kids would have been exposed to TB by adults who are diagnosed with the disease so we can effectively fight to end pediatric TB,” said Dr Nyamundaya.
The Cap TB programme is being sponsored by Unitaid and is being carried out in 10 countries including Zimbabwe.