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Mozambique: Half of Tuberculosis Cases Go Undiagnosed

The number of cases of tuberculosis diagnosed in Mozambican health units is well below the real number of infections, warned// Health Minister Ivo Garrido on Wednesday.

Speaking in Maputo, at the opening of a national meeting on tuberculosis, Garrido said, "in our country, we only manage to detect about 50 per cent of people suffering from tuberculosis".

In 2006, he noted, 35,492 cases of TB were notified, which was an increase of five per cent on the previous year. But, despite the major efforts made to expand the health network since the end of the war of destabilisation in 1992, it is still inadequate, and so an estimated half of all TB cases go undiagnosed.

There are now about 1,200 health units in Mozambique, but only 250 have the capacity to make laboratory diagnoses.

The key problem, Garrido said, was locating the people who have the disease and are not being treated. "That's our central problem at this meeting", he declared. "We will not improve the situation without deciding how to increase our capacity to diagnose those people who have the disease and are scattered across the country".

The problem is complicated by the relationship between TB and HIV/AIDS. TB is one of the most common opportunist infections that strikes people whose immune systems have been compromised by HIV. Levels of co-infection in Mozambique are extremely high: Garrido cited World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, according to which about half the patients with TB seen in Mozambican health units are also HIV-positive.

"This results in high mortality from tuberculosis", he said.

Currently 13 per cent of TB patients die - leading Garrido to the conclusion that "HIV infection is doubling the number of TB deaths".

The rapid spread of strains of TB that are resistant to all the main drugs used against the disease is an additional concern, and a potentially a serious drain on the Health Ministry's resources. '"/>




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