…the key area of concern is accessibility of drugs, especially for malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis. The drugs exist, but are they getting to the people that need them? – Ralph Fiennes
Taking Treatment to the People: Curing Tuberculosis around the Globe
Tuberculosis’ history is long. Many thousands of people over many hundreds of centuries have died from this dreaded bacterial infection. Many famous people too. One such person was Doc Holliday, a gambler, gunfighter, and dentist of the American Old West, who is usually best remembered for his friendship with another cowboy legend, Wyatt Earp. In the movie Tombstone, Doc Holliday’s prowess with a pistol is well-documented, as is his battle with Tuberculosis, the disease which eventually killed him in 1887, at the young age of 36. In the film, his black-hat-wearing adversaries bank on Doc’s weaknesses brought about by TB, taunting him with the cruel nickname, “Lung-er” when his tuberculosis symptoms – pale clammy skin, profuse sweating and weakness, and especially coughing up blood – seem to knock him off balance.
“Tuberculosis has been known to mankind since ancient ages. It was commonly called “consumption” at the turn of the last century because of the way the disease seemed to “consume” the individual it affected.
The bacteria causing tuberculosis is called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. Spread of tuberculosis is facilitated by several factors like overcrowding, living in close quarters like in orphanages, prisons etc. and presence of other medical problems.” (www.news-medical.net)
TB can be a stealthy disease. “Although your body may harbor the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, your immune system usually can prevent you from becoming sick. For this reason, doctors make a distinction between:
- Latent TB. In this condition, you have a TB infection, but the bacteria remain in your body in an inactive state and cause no symptoms. Latent TB, also called inactive TB or TB infection, isn’t contagious. However, it can turn into active TB, so treatment is important for the person with latent TB and to help control the spread of TB in general. An estimated one-third of the world’s population has latent TB.
- Active TB. This condition makes you sick and can spread to others. It can occur in the first few weeks after infection with the TB bacteria, or it might occur years later. (www.mayoclinic.com)
Symptoms of Tuberculosis disease depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. In most active TB cases, the signs of Tuberculosis include: frequent cough, coughing up blood, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, and loss of appetite.
Since TB is easily spread, early diagnosis in ill victims is crucial for prevention of a tuberculosis outbreak. Detection is simple, and a tuberculosis test is readily available in most parts of the world. There are two types of tests. “The most commonly used diagnostic tool for tuberculosis is a simple skin test. A small amount of a substance called PPD tuberculin is injected just below the skin of your inside forearm. You should feel only a slight needle prick.
Within 48 to 72 hours, a health care professional will check your arm for swelling at the injection site. A hard, raised red bump means you’re likely to have TB infection. The size of the bump determines whether the test results are significant.
Blood tests may be used to confirm or rule out latent or active tuberculosis. These tests use sophisticated technology to measure your immune system’s reaction to TB bacteria. These tests may be useful if you’re at high risk of TB infection, but have a negative response to the skin test. Because these tests are relatively new, many health departments don’t have them.
If you’ve had a positive skin test, your doctor is likely to order a chest X-ray. This may show white spots in your lungs where your immune system has walled off TB bacteria, or it may reveal changes in your lungs caused by active tuberculosis.” (www.mayclinic.com)
Despite its history and severity in many cases, TB is curable.
Treatment is available.
No one should die of Tuberculosis.
Nonetheless, each year, nearly two million people die unnecessarily from TB worldwide. A treatable and curable disease, many people either don’t have access to needed medication or they don’t take the medication properly.
This is where PCI steps in and makes a difference to improve the health of millions of people all over the world. PCI works in partnership with the National TB Program in Mexico, and in other countries, to control TB by providing treatment support to patients. The partnership works like this: government health clinics offer diagnostic services and medication, and PCI trains community health volunteers to make home visits, observe patient intake of medication, and provide multi-faceted support during the course of treatment. In recent years, PCI contributed to an average cure rate of 90.7% in the 13 participating high-risk states, compared to a national rate of 84.1%.
Furthermore, in July of 2012 PCI Mexico concluded a phase four of a seven-year program called The Solucion TB Co-Morbidities Program funded by USAID. The program was implemented by PCI in close collaboration with the National Tuberculosis (TB) Program and five Mexican jurisdictions including Tijuana, Reynosa, Zapopan, Cd. Juarez, and Guadalupe. The program analyzed the relationship between Tuberculosis, Diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, and the benefits of joint diagnosis and treatment.
The program aimed to increase TB-HIV/AIDS and TB-diabetes prevention and control through improved integrated care by building the capacity of local health systems and staff to carry out joint, coordinated approaches
After implementation, the program developed joint co-morbidity plans with active participation of each state and jurisdiction, and provided key services such as information on early recognition of symptoms, detection/diagnosis through incremental screening, treatment and care.
With comprehensive, hands on strategies such as the ones conducted in The Solucion TB Co-Morbidities Program, PCI is affecting change by treating and curing victims of Tuberculosis. Worldwide, the healing continues. Please visit our website – www.pciglobal.org – to discover how you can help.