In Mozambique, EGPAF Support Boosts Tuberculosis Diagnoses
People living with HIV are much more vulnerable to tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial infection that kills the body’s tissues. In fact, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people living with HIV be tested for TB. And in Maputo province in southern Mozambique, more patients with TB will be able to receive treatment as a result of 23 microscopes and a new initiative focused on training staff in properly diagnosing TB.
Now in its pilot phase, the project is implemented by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH), through the funds of U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the CDC. The initiative will be replicated to other sites of Mozambique.
EGPAF and the MOH created three courses focused on teaching staff how to read samples and diagnose TB faster and more efficiently. Forty-six health staff from across the region, including medical officers and nurses, attended the training.
Speaking during the course, Monica Rodriguez, a laboratory technician working for the Direcção Provincial de Saúde (the provincial health department) in Maputo Province, said that each health site will receive one microscope to use to diagnose pulmonary TB. Together with microscopes, reagents, registration, and biosecurity materials, the peripheral sites will be able to receive and process samples from local patients. During the first phase of the project, the microscopes will be used only for diagnosing pulmonary TB, but in the future the devices can be used to diagnose other infectious diseases.
In Marracuene, this equipment will be located at health sites in Machubo, Michafutene, Nhonganine, Mumemo, Mali, and Ricatlha, where many people need assistance. The rates of TB have increased in Marracuene as more people from Maputo move into the district. In 2012, the TB program in Marracuene reported 144 cases, while only 128 were reported in 2011. But because of a lack of capacity, many people were uninformed of their TB status. Though 70 percent of TB cases should be tracked, the lack of microscopes made doing so in Marracuene impossible.
“At the end, the staff will be prepared to screen TB patients using the microscopes and follow all of the treatment processes (for patients), in coordination with the district authority of the tuberculosis program,” Monica Rodriguez explained. “With the course, the patients (at) the mentioned sites will not need to go to Marracuene headquarters to be diagnosed and (get their) results.”
Participants in the training were thrilled to gain new skills. Luis Cipriano, a general nurse who works at the health site in Michafutene, told us that that now all suspected cases can be properly diagnosed using the new microscopes.
“In the past, we were obliged to (send) patients to the laboratory (in) Marracuene. The patient had to wait many days”, he said.
Many TB patients are also HIV positive, making diagnosis and proper treatment even more critical. “We are happy and we thank the U.S. Government for the support”, said Mário Casqueira, chief nurse of the Tuberculosis and Leprosy Program in Marracuene district.
Arsénio Manhice is Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer for the Foundation, based in Mozambique.