PNG fight against TB gets serious
Papua New Guinea's government has received a timely boost in its fight to counter tuberculosis, as rates creep up in parts of the country.
Papua New Guinea's government has received a timely boost in its fight to counter tuberculosis.
The Global Fund has announced an 18 million US dollars grant to be implemented by World Vision, aimed at reducing the incidence and prevalence of TB in PNG.
Johnny Blades reports that TB has crept up as a major health threat in parts of the country.
Latest statistics show that tuberculosis has been spreading in PNG, with Western and Gulf provinces, and the National Capital District the worst-affected parts. Around a third of PNG's new cases are multiple-drug resistant, adding a serious co-infection threat with HIV. After a 42 percent increase in reported cases over the past ten years, the TB prevalence rate is 337 in every 100,000, with a mortality rate of 26. Having started a National TB Awareness Campaign last year, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has urged PNG citizens to be aware of the symptoms and seek the cure, which is free.
PETER O'NEILL: "Papua New Guineans must think seriously about healthcare in our country. Many times we are playing Russian Roulette with our health issues in our country and this is a very dangerous game. Issues like TB and HIV AIDS are prevalent in our society and our communities. We must hear the messages that our health professionals are telling us."
World Vision's PNG director Curt von Boguslawski says the Global Fund grant will bolster PNG's national efforts to reduce TB. The national strategic plan focuses on managing treatment of multi-drug resistant TB, countering TB in children and HIV co-infection. He says TB is a poverty disease, with almost a third of PNG's TB cases in the National Capital.
CURT VON BOGUSLAWSKI: "TB thrives in areas where people are living in crowded accomodation, thrives where hygiene levels are poor, it thrives where services are not getting on the ground. It's very important to do the diagnostics right and to get all the TB patients on treatment. As soon as patients have started their treatment, they will no longer be contagious."
However Western Province is excluded from the Global Fund grant because the Australian government oversees the funding of the TB programme in this remote province. One of the numerous workers assisting under the Christian Health Services programme in Western is the Catholic Health Coordinator Sister Anna Sanginawa. She says the sporadic funding they receive is usually not enough to allow them to venture to many remote parts of the province to treat the TB-affected.
ANNA SANGINAWA: "Even money's not coming but we try to help to work but the, how far will we go? That's the question, again. Fuel is the one that we need more money on, fuel."
She says TB is getting out of hand in the Western provincial capital Daru with workers at the front line now infected with multi-drug resistant TB.
ANNE SANGINAWA: "Health workers are infected with MDR, this is a bad sign... since the people are not getting the treatment, the TB drugs."
However Curt von Boguslawski says the big increase in detected cases is a good sign. In the last few years, about 30,000 new cases of TB have been diagnosed annually in PNG whereas poor data collection meant only around 5000 cases were detected five years ago.
CURT VAN BOGUSLAWSKI: "It might seem odd that the case numbers are increasing but it's actually a very good sign because we learn much more about the disease and we know that if we have cases detected, we can also treat them and cure them."
Mr von Boguslawski says the Department of Health and its working group on drug-resistant TB management, which includes World Vision, is monitoring the spiraling situation in Daru. He says they have accelerated their response to it and are hopeful the government will soon approve extra funding to address the situation.
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