In our effort to support worldwide tuberculosis (TB) control efforts, we call on governments, donors and communities to continue their commitment to prevent, find, diagnose, treat and cure all people with tuberculosis (TB). Despite being largely preventable and treatable disease, TB continues to be a threat to global public health, killing two to three people every minute.
In our effort to combat TB, the Irish Red Cross works in partnership with local Red Cross National Societies running TB Prevention Programmes. One of the greatest challenges facing TB control is the detection and management of drug resistant strains of TB, caused by patients not completing their treatment as prescribed. Of the estimated 9 million people who developed TB in 2013, India accounted for 24% of the total cases and is among the countries with the highest burden of Multidrug-resistant TB. Globally it is estimated that 3 million cases are missed annually, with one million of these unreported cases in India. Lives can and must be saved through effective diagnosis and treatment.
Through visits from our Red Cross community-based volunteers we ensure that people affected by TB adhere to their treatment. Working closely with other health providers we ensure access to screening and testing especially the most vulnerable and underserved communities who are being missed. Due to stigma and discrimination associated with TB, patients often experience rejection and social isolation. In an effort to overcome this, it helps that a number of our volunteers includes former TB patients who are particularly compassionate when it comes to dispelling myths and reducing stigma among family and neighbours.
Tuberculosis in Ireland
Of course TB is not only a health problem in countries we work overseas. Here in Ireland, over 400 cases of TB are notified annually. Following an outbreak of TB in Irish prisons in 2009 – 10, Irish Red Cross ran a TB awareness project reaching out to those most at risk populations in the prison. We do this through volunteer led awareness campaigns and knowledge on TB prevention is controlling the spread of TB.
TB is curable and can be ended. With the focus on increased community awareness and community engagement in TB, reaching the 3 million and ensuring equitable access to TB care and treatment for all will help us eventually eliminate the disease.