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ISLAMABAD: National Health Services (NHS) Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani said on Thursday that Pakistan is committed to ending tuberculosis (TB) by 2030, as envisaged under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and all resources will be mobilised to fight TB.

Mr Kiani was speaking to a high-level mission from the World Health Organisation headquarters and the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.

The objective of the meeting was to place TB on the political agenda through the NHS ministry, increase the commitment of all stakeholders to end the disease by 2030, attract more partners in TB control in Pakistan, empower affected communities, combat stigma and discrimination against TB patients and mobilise domestic resources to fight the disease and reduce the catastrophic cost on TB- affected families.

Mr Kiani said TB is one of the priority diseases for prevention and control, and the government is fully committed to the SDGs and the strategic goals to end TB.

“We are in continuous struggle in setting the strategic directions to find the 140,000 patients, which are missed every year, and positioning ourselves to tackle the emerging threat of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. Some of the measures have already been taken and some are planned,” he said.

MDR TB is one which grows when patients stop taking their medication before the course has been completed. The virus becomes so strong that the cost of treatment increases by several folds.

The minister also said that referral links will be made between the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and informed the delegation of plans to revamp the lady health workers programme to improve community-level essential health services.

He said multi-sectoral collaboration links will be developed with other ministries and departments for an effective response regarding TB control.

TB is an airborne infection with common symptoms being a cough that lasts over two weeks, low-grade fever, night sweats, loss of appetite and weight loss. The non-specific symptoms can lead to delays in seeking care and the transmission of the bacteria in the community.

People with active TB can infect 10 to 15 other people through close contact over the course of a year. Once infected, the risk of developing the disease is high in children and elderly, malnourished, immune-compromised, HIV-positive and diabetic people, as well as those with renal failure and smokers.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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