BOBBY RAMAKANT - CNS
To end tuberculosis (TB) we need to meet the goal of ZERO new active TB disease, ZERO new latent TB infection and ZERO TB death
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TB is preventable, treatable and curable. Science shows how can we effectively prevent, accurately diagnose, treat with effective regimen, and eventually cure TB. But are not we failing to translate scientific wisdom in public health gains? How can we explain over 10 million new cases of TB and 1.6 million TB deaths (including 300,000 TB deaths among people living with HIV) in 2017 (source: WHO Global TB Report 2018)?
Recognizing the compelling urgency to prevent avoidable burden of disease as well as avert premature deaths, a Call To Action was launched at TB HIV Symposium around the 10th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) in Mexico, which underlines: "TB is not only treatable and curable but also preventable."
Noted human rights activist and South Africa based HIV advocate from Global Network of People Living with HIV, Wim Vandevelde, shared this Call To Action, for a coordinated HIV and TB response to reach 6 million people living with HIV with tuberculosis preventive treatment. But there are 36.9 million people living with HIV globally so should not we be aspiring to deliver TB preventive therapy to every person living with HIV?
"I think I have had a mixed reaction to the targets (30 million people to get TB preventive treatment (TPT) by 2022, among which would be 6 million people living with HIV). I think this is a good place to start as this calls for a lot of government and donor commitment along with lot of civil society engagement too to ensure that those who are hard to reach are reached with services. This could be a huge target if we aim to reach those who are hard to reach, but it could also be an easy target for programmes that are well designed to leave no one behind. So, I think it is up to us to ensure that we are all playing our roles to achieving these targets. But we hope that we will increase it even further and ensure that everyone is able to prevent TB" said Maurine Murenga, whose seminal contribution to bringing community voices centre-stage in TB, HIV and malaria responses is widely recognized.
She spoke with CNS (Citizen News Service) on the sidelines of TB HIV Symposium in Mexico. She has been living with HIV openly since the early 2000s and leads Lean on Me Foundation in Kenya. She is a board member representing Communities on the Board of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (The Global Fund), and is the Communities Representative at the TB Alliance Stakeholders Association.
Why were people with TB missing in the first place?
"Just recently we have been doing an exercise called finding missing TB cases. I think one question we need to ask ourselves is, why are these people with TB even missing in the first place? These are the questions that if we honestly answer, then we are going to begin the journey of ending TB" said Maurine Murenga.
"Civil society is known for pushing governments to meet their commitments, so that TB services are actually available, and they are provided in a way that promotes and respects human rights. We need to move beyond laboratories and hospitals to the community to be able to understand the community, create awareness, support access, adherence and retention and address all the barriers that come with it" added Maurine Murenga.