MALI: Tuberculosis Makes A Comeback
UN Humanitarian Affairs (Dr. Claudia R. Wintoch)
October 24, 2003



The other day when I was in a local pentecostal church, they shared how one of their members, who was also in their Bible school, had died the night before of tuberculosis. I found the UN report below very enlightening.



BAMAKO, 23 October (IRIN) - Tuberculosis is making a comeback in Mali, partly as a result of HIV/AIDS patients falling prey to the disease, but also because the respiratory disease is considered shameful and patients are reluctant to seek treatment, government officials said.

Diallo Alima Nacko, coordinator of the National Campaign Against Tuberculosis, told IRIN that the number of reported cases had increased 46 percent over the past seven years from 1,886 in 1995 to 2,757 in 2002.

"Above all, tuberculosis is a social disease," added N'Diaye Fatoumata Coulibaly, the Minister for Rural Development.

She pointed out that it was prevalent among the rising number of HIV/AIDS sufferers in Mali, where according to UNAIDS, about two percent of the adult population is infected with the virus.

But Coulibaly said tuberculosis was also considered socially shameful, so it was often difficult to track down sufferers and persuade them to come forward for treatment.

"Tuberculosis is a major cause of mortality among people infected with HIV/AIDS," the minister said. But she added: "The resurgence of tuberculosis cannot just be explained by AIDS. It is more especially a result of difficulties linked to the tracking down of sufferers."

Mali has been fighting the disease with the help of the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1963. Last weekend, the government launched a fresh drive to persuade tuberculosis patients to come forward for treatment. It began in Sikasso, a town near the southern borders with Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire, whose mayor was a once victim of the disease, but has been completely cured. He now strongly urges other tuberculosis sufferers to come forward.

The government aims to persuade tuberculosis patients to accept a short course of chemotherapy, which is available free of charge at hospitals and health centres throughout this landlocked West African country. The treatment programme currently has a 60 percent success rate, although the government is aiming to raise this to 85 percent.

People aged between 25 and 44 are considered most susceptible to developing tuberculosis, which congests the lungs and causes difficulties in breathing.

"Unfortunately, less than a third of these people are detected in time," said Nacko, the campaign coordinator, stressing that this made it difficult to cut the chain of infection.

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