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World TB Day stresses unity in fight to end tuberculosis

Health authorities and the World Health Organisation in Laos marked World Tuberculosis (TB) Day yesterday, calling for concerted action to address stigma, discrimination, and marginalisation and overcome barriers to care access.

This year's slogan “Leave No One Behind” seeks to unite efforts in the second year of a two-year “Unite to End TB” campaign.

World TB Day is marked annually on March 24.

Laos has a high TB burden, with about 3,300 TB related deaths each year, Minister of Health Associate Prof. Dr Bounkong Syhavong said in delivering remarks via video.

“I would like to strongly enc ourage anyone who suspects that they or a family member have TB to be tested,” he said.

We have sensitive diagnostic tools (digital X-ray machine and Gene Xpert) used for TB detection and treatment is available for patients whose results come back positive for the disease.”

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda to which Laos is a signatory seeks to ensure that no one is left behind.

Addressing th e needs of the poor, disadvantaged, marginalised and those out of reach of the health system is one of the targets for the WHO End TB Strategy.

WHO Representative to Laos Dr Juliet Fleischl said reaching communities in remote areas and ensuring that they have access to healthcare services is one of the five priorities of the WHO Country Cooperation Strategy.

Across the country in 2016, some 4969 TB cases were detected and treated.

It is estimated some 60 percent of TB cases remain untreated.

“We need to engage a multisectoral approach and engage more stakeholders in TB prevention and care services,” she said.

Deputy Director of the National Tuberculosis Centre, Dr Phouvong Vangvichit, said at the World TB Day media event that the centre has been working with health workers, development partners, civil society and communities to disseminate and advocate TB prevention messages.

“TB can affect anyone, old people, working adults and even children. The disease thrives among people living in poverty, communities and groups that are marginalised, and other vulnerable populations,” he said.

The factors that contribute to TB includes malnutrition, poor housing, indoor smoke, pollution, poor sanitation further compounded by other risk factors like tobacco and alcohol use, HIV and diabetes that serve to increase vulnerability.

Treatment is available free of charge, but families who are not aware of this may not seek treatment as they are concerned about potential for high medical costs.

This results in a vicious cycle of poverty and ill health and the transmission of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) adds great urgency to these concerns.

To accelerate efforts towards ending TB in Laos, NTC is working with the Centre of Information and Education for Health to develop television spots and radio messages encouraging everyone to get screened.

Interviews with former TB patients and health care professionals will engage the public by creating awareness on TB and provide information on where they can get screened.

Free TB screening was held at Mahosot Hospital for healthcare professionals and the public.

A media event is planned to assist journalists and presenters educate audiences, and TV and radio spots will be aired during the week of World TB Day.

Outreach activities are set to continue to reach those communities living remote hard–to-reach areas who have difficulty accessing healthcare facilities.

Both Laos, WHO and its partners agree it is important to reach everyone and ensure that no one is left behind if the goals of the End TB Strategy are to be met.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update March 25, 2017)


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