Blog Posts by Pedro Suarez

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

Tuberculosis (TB) claims a life every 15 seconds; it is the single largest infectious killer and is universally recognized as a global epidemic. Nearly 200 children die every day of TB.

The challenges of tackling TB are well known, particularly in settings with limited resources, crowded urban environments, and among high risk groups including people living with HIV, prisoners, and children. The emergence of multidrug resistant strains of the disease (MDR-TB), the result of incomplete or poor managed TB treatment, present further obstacles and add exponential costs to already burdened health systems. Furthermore, challenges with access to, affordability, and proper use of pharmaceuticals and laboratory materials can have devastating consequences on diagnosis and treatment.

The key to ending TB is to work together to strengthen health systems in high TB-burden countries to be able to effectively implement both proven and innovative strategies. Four approaches will help save lives by uniting stakeholders to collaborate, innovate, and end TB:

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

This blog post is a web-formatted version of the Global Health Impact newsletter: Stronger Health Systems Stop TB and Save Lives (December 2015). (View or share the email version here.) We welcome your feedback and questions in the comments or email us. On social media, use hashtag and tag .  Subscribe

{Photo credit: MSH staff/Afghanistan}Photo credit: MSH staff/Afghanistan

“I started feeling this coughing… so I went to the health center and got tested. It was positive for TB,” says Grace*, a young Ugandan woman. She started on medicines, but after two months, she stopped adhering to treatment.

They told me to continue with the drugs for five more months, but I stopped.

I thought I was ok.

She started coughing again, went to the hospital, and was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). MDR-TB cannot be treated with two of the most powerful first-line treatment anti-TB drugs. Her treatment regimen? Six months of injections and two years of drugs.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

Azmara Ashenafi, a 35-year-old woman from the Amhara region of Ethiopia, was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and placed on treatment. She was fortunate. Many people with TB are missed by health systems altogether. But Azmara’a treatment wasn’t helping. Despite taking medicine for months, her symptoms persisted and became more severe.

In many places, her story would have a sad ending—TB is one of the top three leading causes of death for women 15 to 44 in low- and middle-income countries.

But Azmara went to the Muja Health Center—one of over 1,600 supported by USAID's Help Ethiopia Address Low TB Performance (HEAL TB) program, and where MSH has been training health workers to screen patients for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).

MDR-TB cannot be treated with the two most potent first line anti-TB drugs and infects 6,000 Ethiopians each year. To help curb the spread of the disease, health workers learn how to screen people in close contact with MDR-TB patients. All of Azmara’s family members were tested and both she and her three year old son Feseha were found to have MDR-TB.

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle / MSH.}Photo credit: Katy Doyle / MSH.

Stop TB in my lifetime.

This global call to action---the Stop TB Partnership's theme for March 24, World TB Day 2013---is as relevant now as it was over a hundred years ago.

Progress toward reducing the global burden of tuberculosis (TB) has been impressive in recent years: TB mortality has fallen by 41 percent since 1990.

Yet, TB remains one of the world’s leading causes of death, killing more than 1.4 million people per year, including 70,000 children. In 2011, 600,000 people died of TB in Africa alone---including many people with HIV.

Low detection rates, new strains of multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB), high prevalence of HIV/TB co-infection, and risk of TB among diabetes patients---nearly 10 percent of TB cases are linked to diabetes, add to the challenge of TB control, especially among the poor and most vulnerable.

Printer Friendly Version