Tsumkwe – The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Country Representative, Dr. Randy Kolstad, handed over a 4×4-vehicle and cartridges for a GeneXpert TB diagnostic machine to use for tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis, to the Ministry of Health and Social Services at Tsumkwe, Otjozondjupa Region, on 17 July 2019. Over the past five years, one of the partners supporting Namibia’s TB response with funding from the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID has been the KNCV Challenge TB project.
Tsumkwe Constituency is home to the San community and is particularly affected by drug-resistant tuberculosis cases. USAID Country Representative Dr. Randy Kolstad reminded the community in attendance of this year’s World-TB-Day theme “It’s time!” – time to diagnose and help every single TB patient, even in the most remote corners of Namibia, including those suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis:
“Drug-resistant TB used to be a death sentence for many, but that’s no more, thanks to new medications and treatment regimens. Through various mechanisms, the United States Government has significantly supported efforts to address the challenge of tuberculosis,” highlighted Kolstad.
The Deputy Director of Special Programs, Mr. Tomas Ukola, received the donations on behalf of the Executive Director of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Mr. Benetus Nangombe, who thanked USAID for its support.
Together with representatives of the Ministry of Health and the regional government, Dr. Kolstad visited the nearby San community of Duine Pos where they observed health workers providing directly observed therapy to TB patients. In the case of drug-resistant tuberculosis, this means up to 16 tablets each day, observed by a health worker. To minimize potential side effects, patients also receive some food items.
Tuberculosis is the top cause of death among infectious diseases globally with almost a quarter of the world’s population being infected. However, infection does not necessarily mean that the individual has the disease as most people’s immune system can contain and fight off the bacteria. Tuberculosis is also the top cause of death among people infected with HIV, and in Namibia, HIV has been a driver of the TB epidemic.
Over the years, USAID’s KNCV Challenge TB project has supported the establishment of the Tsumkwe stakeholder forum for tuberculosis and has increased community participation and awareness about the disease. The project also established the country’s first ambulatory care treatment model for drug-resistant tuberculosis in Tsumkwe.
The GeneXpert cartridges will be used to identify the disease within 90 minutes instead of sending a sputum specimen to a laboratory from where the results would only return after several days or even weeks. The 4×4 vehicle will be used by field workers to reach patients even in the most remote rural communities of the Otjozondjupa Region.
PEPFAR is the largest commitment by a single nation toward an international health initiative – a comprehensive approach to combating HIV/AIDS around the world. PEPFAR employs the most diverse prevention, treatment, and care strategy, with an emphasis on transparency and accountability for results. In Namibia, PEPFAR is led by the U.S. Ambassador, and programmed by an inter-agency team chaired by the PEPFAR Coordinator.