Looming crisis as TB testing kits run out

George Kebaso @Morarak

It has been an agonising five months for Tuberculosis (TB) patients after cartridges for geneXpert technology ran out.

There is seemingly  no immediate plans  to replenish stock, which has forced health facilities to revert to microscopy testing that takes long for patients to know their TB status.

Previously, it took up to four days to get test results before the advent of the geneXpert technology, which gives results almost instantly.

In Kajiado, a TB advocate Leseni Timpiani said the situation is deteriorating with the county referral hospital being forced to handle cases from Kajiado East and Central sub-counties, while relying on microscopy tests. The hospital attends to about 20 TB patients daily.

She said earlier plans to conduct outreach programmes for the hard-to-reach populations in the pastoralist county were postponed by the sudden stock out of cartridges.

This has raised fears many people could have been infected because it is difficult to follow up on those who have tested positive for the airborne disease.

“All the health facilities in the county bring their geneXpert sputum tests for screening at the referral hospital, but with the logistical dynamics such as distance, many patients fail to turn up. This makes it difficult for follow-ups,” she said.

Stigma associated with TB has also caused patients to shy away from treatment.

In Makueni, the situation is similar. Peter Ng’ola, a TB advocate,  has raised the issue before and has reported deaths.

In Kangemi, Nairobi, according to Steve Anguva, the geneXpert stopped functioning in June. “We briefly relied on borrowed cartridges but since August there were none,” he said.

Evaline Kibuchi, Stop TB Partnership – Kenya chief national coordinator, said in some facilities, stock run out before July.

She said the situation might erode the gains made in the battle against TB,  which attracted the highest level of political commitment during the United Nations General Assembly (Unga)meeting in New York in September.

President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a declaration committing the government to invest more in research and development for TB diagnosis and ending TB in the country by 2030.

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