WHAT IS TUBERCULOSIS?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a common and in many cases lethal infectious disease. It usually attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough or sneeze. Roughly one in ten people living with the disease eventually develop an active case of TB. If left untreated, TB kills more than 50 percent of people who develop active cases.
Symptoms of TB include a chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats and weight loss. Diagnosis relies on chest X-rays, a tuberculin skin test, blood tests as well as microscopic examination and microbiological culture of bodily fluids.
Treatment is difficult and requires long courses of multiple antibiotics – typically six months for TB. Social contacts are also screened and treated if necessary. When people fail to complete the drug regimen for TB, the disease becomes resistant to treatment. It often develops into a more deadly form of TB called multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).
TUBERCULOSIS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
One third of the world's population live with TB, and new infections occur at a rate of about one per second. And the number of people who become sick with tuberculosis each year continues to grow.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are currently 13.7 million chronic active cases of TB, 9.3 million new cases each year and 1.8 million annual deaths. People in the developed world are more likely to contract tuberculosis because their immune systems are more likely to be compromised due to HIV/AIDS. Today, TB is the leading cause of death for people infected with HIV/AIDS.
This disease offers a glaring example of the health care inequities that exist in the world. Drugs to fight TB have been in existence for 50 years, yet the disease continues to kill 5,000 people every day – nearly all of them in developing countries.
PIH TREATS TB AND MDR-TB
For over two decades, PIH has treated and prevented TB, MDR-TB and HIV/TB in some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. Our community-based approach to care has resulted in some of the highest cure rates and lowest treatment default rates ever recorded.
These results prove that health problems once thought untreatable can be addressed effectively, even in poor and geographically remote settings. Our goal is to share the success of our approach on a broad scale.
The community-based approach utilizes community health workers who are trained and employed to serve as a vital link between their villages and medical facilities. They deliver drugs and treatment support to patients requiring complex drug regimens, and provide both TB drugs and antiretroviral therapy to patients co-infected with TB and HIV/AIDS. They monitor the health of their neighbors, perform active case finding, and refer sick patients to the hospital –often accompanying them there.
To increase the impact of our approach and avoid the creation of parallel systems, we partner with local governments and provide technical assistance to build up the public sector. Three of our original MDR-TB pilot projects have successfully made the jump to national programs, and now provide training and technical assistance to other countries in their regions.
All information taken from the Partners in Health Website: http://www.pih.org/pages/tuberculosis-and-mdr-tb/