drug-resistant TB

Mildred shares her story of surviving XDR-TB at an event honoring "TB Champions" in DC; Ambassador Goosby listens. {Photo: E. Delmotte/MSH.}Photo: E. Delmotte/MSH.

Mildred Fernando lives and works in the Philippines for the USAID-funded, MSH-led, Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program. Mildred spoke at several World TB Day events in Washington, DC, including at a senate briefing and an event honoring TB survivors and advocates (watch video). The interview below first appeared on the SIAPS blog.

It all began in November 2001 for Mildred Fernando when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), a preventable and curable disease which caused the death of 1.4 million people in 2011. She was only 19 years old, working on completing her last semester in college when she contracted TB from her father who sadly succumbed to it two years later.

Patients wait in a well-ventilated area outside the TB clinic in Homa Bay, Kenya. {Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.}Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.

The state of tuberculosis (TB) is in a tug-of-war as current challenges threaten to undo past successes. One of the primary hurdles currently facing TB prevention and cure is the emergence of strains that are resistant to at least two of the most effective medicines (rifampicin and isoniazid).

So-called drug-resistant (DR)-TB arises when patients are unable to complete a full-course of appropriate, high quality anti-TB medicines. As compared with the 6 month treatment regimen for drug-sensitive (DS)-TB, DR-TB requires 18-24 months of treatment with medicines that are less effective, can cause sometimes severe side effects, and can cost up to 300 times more.

{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.

The images of tuberculosis patients from the developing world are often painful to look at: the outlines of rib cages taut against skin; arms and legs no thicker than wiffleball bats; a wild-eyed look of fear from sunken eyes. But the image of Mildred Fernando, captured here by photographer Riccardo Venturi, turns heads toward her.

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