Message By The Honourable Donville Inniss, Minister Of Health For World TB Day

Today, March 24, Barbados joins the rest of the world to observe World TB Day. It was on this day, in 1882, that Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of the TB bacillus. At the time, his discovery was the most important step towards the control and elimination of this disease.

The aim of the event is to educate the public about the health and economic consequences of TB, its effects on countries and its impact on global health.

The theme chosen for this year, Stop TB in my lifetime, raises awareness about the global epidemic and the efforts that are on-going around the world to eliminate this disease.?? Specifically, the 2012 campaign invites each one of us to make a call to "stop TB".?? It conveys the hope that children and men and women everywhere should expect to see a world where no one gets sick or dies from TB.?? To achieve this, much more work will have to be done to bring about faster treatment, a quick, low-cost test, and an effective vaccine.

Globally, TB is a major public health concern.?? According to the World Health Organization, in 2010, there were 8.8 million cases of TB, with 1.35 million deaths, in countries around the world.????

Symptoms of TB may include a cough, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills and loss of appetite.??

In the Americas, 270,000 persons become sick with TB each year, 44 thousand of whom are children, and 23,000 persons die annually as a result of TB.

The Caribbean region, like the rest of the world, has experienced a resurgence of TB, especially, with respect to HIV as a co-infection. There is always the likelihood that individuals with compromised immune systems may become more susceptible to chronic infections such as tuberculosis.

Here in Barbados, no new cases of TB were reported in 2011.?? This is the first time in three decades that there have been no new TB transmissions. This is in part due to the diligence of the TB control programme of the Ministry of Health.?? It is also a reflection of high quality public health systems since TB thrives in countries with weak health systems. However, this current status does not lead us to a state of complacency.?? We must continue to have a strong TB surveillance and control programme in place.

Therefore, the Ministry of Health remains vigilant in the fight against TB and has in place a multi-pronged strategy that includes education, surveillance and treatment methodologies; and counselling support. The TB Control Programme has, for several years, adopted a modified DOTS Programme which is aimed at supporting persons with TB in adhering to the prescribed treatment regimen.

The Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Barbados continues to engage health care staff in training activities to update their knowledge on the guidelines and treatment modalities for TB /HIV Co-infection.

Plans are on the way to amalgamate the Public Health Laboratory, the Ladymeade Reference Unit Laboratory and the Leptospira Laboratory to create a National Public Health Laboratory.?? This new comprehensive facility will deliver specialty diagnostics services which are currently offered separately. This venture is being made possible through the support of the Government of the United States of America.?? It is expected that the ground breaking for this laboratory will take place before the end of this year.??

The Ladymeade Reference Unit (LRU) has started molecular diagnostic testing for TB.?? This initiative is being conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.?? The possession of the state of the art technology to perform this type of testing makes the LRU the only laboratory in the Eastern Caribbean with this capability; and we will be sharing this technology with our neighbours in the region.????????????

However, despite the efforts of the global community, TB remains a global public health problem and countries around the world are being encouraged to implement effective systems for TB prevention and control.?? The good news is that TB can be cured and controlled and effective treatment is available.?? To this end, the Ministry of Health will continue to collaborate with the global "Stop TB Partnership" to take the necessary steps towards the elimination of TB.??

I want to encourage all Barbadians to embrace the 2012 World TB Day campaign and to continue to cooperate with public health authorities in the fight against TB.

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