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Step up fight against TB

AS we marked World TB Day on Wednesday, Lesotho predictably hogged the limelight because of yet another unsettling statistic.

We have the world’s fourth-highest prevalence of tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that usually attacks lungs and also other parts of the body.

Considering Lesotho also has one of the worst HIV infection rates — third-highest in the world — we really have to be worried.

Already we have watched Lesotho’s life expectancy plummet to 40 years thanks to HIV and TB.

In fact, it is the risk posed by the twin evils of HIV and TB that medical workers highlighted on World TB Day.

They are worried that the lethal combination of HIV infection and tuberculosis may become the world’s next major health crisis.

The threat of extensively drug-resistant TB to a nation already battered by HIV, the virus that causes Aids, is unfathomable.

Up to 90 percent of Basotho with HIV also have TB, according to experts.

The actual numbers of infected people is not known.

While the government and its partners in health have been considerably active in combating HIV and TB, it is Lesotho’s limited capacity to determine the extent of especially extensively drug-resistant TB that is worrying.

There have also been reports of lack of adequate infection control measures at clinics and hospitals.

Clearly we, as a country, still have a long way to go if we are to win the war against TB and Aids.

We are duty-bound to call upon the government to up the ante in the battle against the killer diseases.

As is always the case people in rural areas — who make up 80 percent of Lesotho’s population — face the biggest risk.

Medical facilities are either few or not available altogether especially in the mountainous regions of our country.

And those hospitals and clinics that the rural populace struggles to access either have inadequate drugs or don’t have enough medical workers.

Considering that and all the other challenges healthcare givers face, we need not remind the government that health should be prioritised.

The government ought to ensure there is access to diagnosis and treatment.

The development of comprehensive management and care strategies is critical.

We need not overstate the need to deploy sufficient and trained staff at all medical facilities.

Last but not least, it is the government’s responsibility — although not entirely — to spearhead advocacy and information dissemination campaigns concerning the diseases.

We as ordinary Basotho also have a big role to play if we are to win the war and see the statistics improving significantly.

It appears we have come to accept HIV and TB as “normal” diseases.

That can only explain our cavalier attitude and lackadaisical efforts to stop spreading the scourge.

We all have a responsibility to stop the diseases.

While HIV and TB are obviously our biggest challenge, we would also like to take this opportunity to remind the powers-that-be that our entire healthcare system leaves a lot to be desired.

The challenges healthcare givers and patients face at public health institutions have been detailed ad nauseum.

Critical drugs are not always available.

Doctors and nurses are not adequate.

Worse, the health workers are not happy with their working conditions.

Until we realise we have a serious challenge, our healthcare system will remain crippled.

And we need not be surprised when Lesotho’s health statistics remain in the danger zone.

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