Tanzania with a population of 44.9 million is classified as one of the 22 high burden countries for tuberculosis (TB). The country houses 5,972 health facilities; the majority in urban areas while rural areas have limited access to TB diagnostic services. The TB notification rate for all cases in 2011 was 153/100,000 people with 59/100,000 being smear positive. Nevertheless, the 2013 National TB prevalence survey revealed prevalence of bacteriological confirmed TB was 354/100,000 with the rural areas more affected. The findings signify more TB than reported. TB continues to major driver of mortality in HIV patients, as reported by facilities supported by IHV, with the highest mortality in our HIV project. 20% died while on TB treatment and 73% died with symptoms of TB.
IHV’s program reports a low rate of TB among HIV patients. By June 2013, 20 districts treated 35,502 HIV patients, with only 1% diagnosed with TB; almost half being from 4 districts with the TB intervention project. The result is likely due to insufficient diagnostic services. In some areas, patients travel 100 km to access services. More refined diagnostic techniques to increase sensitivity like LED Microscopy, molecular technology, and sputum culture are insufficient which poses particular challenges for HIV/AIDS patients. TB detection activities have primarily remained health facility based endeavors with minimal community involvement. These circumstances do not provide for an optimal environment for increased TB case detection and hence hinders TB control efforts.
IHV implements a WHO funded TB program in Tanzania to support active intensified case management which has led to finding more TB cases, with 38% of all forms of TB, and 36% Smear and/or bacteriological positive. Our challenge was the inadequacy of sensitive diagnostic facilities, and hence installed one GeneXpert machine which registered an increase of 6.6% TB cases that were missed by fluorescent microscopy. Building on experience gained and lessons learned, IHV plans to impact case detection through the installation of 4 more GeneXpert machines at high prevalence sites which have limited access to diagnosis.
Conclusion and Recommendation:
Health systems strengthening for laboratory diagnosis and empowering community case identification can result in a marked increase in TB case finding. With the multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis emerging at an alarming rate, support is required to identify and detect suspected cases, improve diagnostic capacity with efficient technology, and improve linkage between diagnostic centers and treatment facilities.