Marvelous Moyo Gwanda Correspondent
MATABELELAND South Province has recorded the highest tuberculosis (TB) death rate in the country, latest statistics have shown.
The province also tops the number of HIV positive people with TB at 83 percent.Presenting a national tuberculosis epidemiological update at a two-day National Aids Council (NAC) workshop for journalists in Kadoma last week, the deputy director of Aids and TB Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Charles Sandy, said the northern parts of the country recorded the least death rates.
Without giving actual figures, Dr Sandy said Matabeleland South accounts for about 20 percent of TB related deaths, followed by Matabeleland North with 16 percent and a 14 percent death rate for Bulawayo.
Midlands Province also has a 14 percent death rate.
The nationwide picture of the death rates shows that 75 percent of districts were above the national and global target of five percent with the high death rate districts being in the southern parts of the country.
Matobo district in Matabeleland South Province has the highest death rate in the country standing at 31 percent followed by Bubi and Nkayi in Matabeleland North with 25 percent and 24 percent respectively.
Death rates for Bulilima, Mangwe and Umzingwane also stand at 24 percent while Mberengwa is at 23 percent and Gwanda has a 20 percent death rate.
“TB is a heavy burden in the southern part of the country and this is an issue of concern to us. We still have a lot of people dying while on treatment,” said Dr Sandy.
He expressed concern over the failure by people to seek medical services sooner saying that some still preferred seeking intervention from prophets and traditional healers and only visited the health institutions when ailments were at advanced stages.
“Access to health services is still limited to our people. People take time to make decisions to get treatment.”
It could not be immediately ascertained what caused the high death rates in the province.
Dr Sandy said the issue was being looked into.
“We are going to conduct TB death audits to zero in on why some of the patients are dying,” he said.
However, the province has this year been faced with sporadic supplies of Cotrimoxazole, the major drug used to treat opportunistic infections, resulting in some patients failing to take their medication as expected.
The drug is taken by some HIV positive TB patients yet to be initiated on antiretroviral treatment (ART).
Failure to take medication as required has a serious negative impact on one’s health that sometimes leads to death.
But the high TB death rates cannot be immediately aligned to the “on and off” shortages of Cotrimoxazole as Dr Sandy said the Ministry of Health and Child Care was not aware of such shortages.
“As a ministry we are not aware of any Cotrimoxazole shortages. The problem has never been reported. We will investigate the issue,” he said.
Last week, the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV (ZNNP+) in Matabeleland South said there was an outcry from patients following repeated shortages of Cotrimoxazole at public hospitals.
Some patients believe the “on and off” shortages were artificial and meant to force them to resort to buying the drug at pharmacies where it is readily available.
Other patients cannot afford to buy the drug in pharmacies.
At public health institutions the drug is accessed free of charge.