Tackling TB in Central Asia and Africa
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Our long-standing support to the Red Cross is helping them to fight TB in some of the poorest parts of central Asia and Africa.
A significant problem in the treatment of TB is not the availability of effective medicines, but the fact that treatment regimes are long and complicated. This means that many patients give up the treatment once the symptoms are no longer apparent, but before the infection is fully treated. This can lead to relapse which makes drug resistance more likely. Encouraging patients to finish their course of treatment is therefore critical.
Another major challenge is that TB and HIV form a potentially lethal combination, each speeding the other’s progress. TB also the biggest killer of people living with HIV. And, as well as the threat to health, both diseases also have a social stigma attached to them, which can create added difficulties for patients in their communities.
Our long-standing partnership with the British Red Cross Society is focused on helping the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to deliver community-based programmes which:
- Encourage people to seek early diagnosis.
- Improve patient compliance.
- Provide care in the home.
- Promote TB and TB/HIV awareness and education.
- Address the stigma associated with the diseases.
In Central Asia
We first joined forces with the Red Cross against TB in 2002 when work initially targeted Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan - countries with widespread poverty and seriously high levels of TB incidence. Since 2006, we have also been supporting the charity in a programme in Kazakhstan, aimed at reducing the effect of TB/HIV co-infection – a major threat to public health in the region. In Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, the programmes are managed by the local Red Crescent Societies and work is focused on improving patient compliance, raising awareness of TB and fighting the stigma associated with the disease.
In Kazakhstan, the local Red Crescent brings together people with a range of skills, such as social workers, psychologists and employment lawyers, who work with volunteers – many of them former patients, to offer a range of support to those on treatment and those who have recently completed treatment. Consultations are provided at Red Crescent centres and through home visits, to encourage sufferers to complete their treatment and to help patients deal with any associated social and emotional difficulties.
Progress to date includes:
- Over 10,000 people living with TB or TB/HIV successfully completing their TB treatment.
- TB treatment completion rates reaching 89% and 92% in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan respectively.
- A significant increase in community awareness following media campaigns and health education sessions in schools and public places that have reached nearly 2 million people.
Overall, our support in Central Asia has helped the Red Crescent to expand their geographic reach and form strong relationships with ministry of health and partner organisations. Their work is now playing a significant role in TB control and prevention, aligned to national TB programmes that are contributing to a stabilisation and reduction of TB incidence in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
In South Africa
With our support, the South African Red Cross Society (SARCS) is helping to deliver improved care and support to people living with TB or TB/HIV in 10 areas. To date, some 2,500 people affected by TB or TB/HIV have successfully completed their treatment and over 6,000 suspected cases of TB identified and sent for screening. This is made possible mainly through daily one to one contact with patients by trained volunteers who, when required, also collect treatment from clinics and oversee the patient taking it. Volunteers also distribute TB prevention information through household visits and local community events, which to date have reached over 60,000 people.
We’ve helped over 160 Red Cross volunteers to be trained in TB management and prevention, including how to recognise TB symptoms, how it is transmitted, infection control and care and referral of people suffering from the disease. These trained volunteers then work within the local communities to share their knowledge with local volunteers and village committees.