Two top medics in East Africa walked into a hall at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha. They met a lady, Norah Owaraga, the Managing Director of CPAR Uganda, who had gone ahead of them to ensure everything needed for the gathering of about 200 scientists, doctors, researchers, policy makers and civil society. At this university, all was in place.
They hugged and talked about challenge of Tuberculosis in East Africa and what can be done to reverse the burden.
All three East African countries are among the 22 TB high burden countries, according to the World Health organization.
The hall at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, was the ideal place for such a meeting as the bulk of students here are post graduate science students.
The youthful doctors enthusiastically exchanged ideas on how this regional approach to health research was a giant step into the right direction. It would help translate research into policy and practice.
Dr. Wilber Sabiiti, a Uganda born-senior research fellow in medicine at the prestigious University of St Andrews in the UK, is the lead researcher for TWENDE, a new project that was launched to spearhead efforts to improve diagnosis of TB in East Africa. The other doctor was Nyanda Elias Ntinginya, the senior research scientist and head of TB and emerging diseases based at Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research in Mbeya.
Sabiiti told The Sunrise that: “TWENDE would have strengthened research collaborations within the East African Community.”
Dr. Nyanda on the hand underscored the fact that “diseases know no borders”. He says, “This is a call to work together, pull our arsenals and fight TB as a region.”
Nyanda says the World Health organization (WHO) has a target to eliminate TB by 2035. However, there’s need to work with practitioners in related diseases such HIV/Aids and diabetes.
“If we are to fight TB, we must eliminate HIV/Aids as well,” says Nyanda who is also the Tanzanian principal investigator for TWENDE.
TWENDE therefore, according to Nyanda, is a platform that brings together medics, government, researchers, civic society, media among others to find pathways that will enable them eliminate the disease.
Like Dr. Sabiiti says, “we are living in a new era, and research has changed a lot.” Therefore, TWENDE is a way to bring research out of laboratories to the communities who feel the burden of the disease.