Aids Weekly Plus
allAfrica reported that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (Global Fund) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) signed an agreement to expand TB diagnosis and treatment to include all residents of Niger, which had one of the highest TB rates in West Africa. The Global Fund committed to a two-year, 10 million euro grant that would fund the scale-up of TB services for “more than 26,000 people in 200 treatment [centers]” and focus on populations with highest risk, including nomadic and migrant groups and prison inmates.
Challenges to sustainable diagnosis and treatment services in Niger included lack of healthcare workers, “predictable funding,” and technical support, according to Bekele Geleta, IFRC’s secretary general. The Government of Niger was committed to the TB response, but TB prevalence was straining the health system’s capacity even though the overall number of TB patients has declined in recent years. TB treatment required supervision and patient support form a trained health worker or volunteer, and could take up to six months.
Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund, stated that his organization and IFRC would work closely with the National Tuberculosis Program of the Ministry of Health in accelerating expansion of TB services, and especially screening for high-risk populations. IFRC brought to the partnership a “unique community perspective and experience.” Geleta described the “winning formula” for preventing TB deaths and new infections as “equitable access” to quality TB screening and treatment and “skilled community volunteers.”
At present, only 46 percent of TB patients in Niger have ever had an HIV test; the grant also would fund HIV testing for TB patients. HIV-positive people are more likely to have active TB.