The World Health Organisation has warned antibiotic resistance has created superbugs which threaten us all;…
(CNN)Each year, March 24 marks World Tuberculosis Day. One day in the year when the world’s lens will focus on the fact that almost 4,000 people globally die every day as a result of this preventable, curable disease.
An ancient disease that has claimed many millions of lives, tuberculosis continues to wreak havoc on public health in many countries in this century.
Fast forward to recent decades and another pandemic has claimed more than 30 million, mostly young lives and today at least another 30 million people live with HIV — an incurable, although treatable infection.
Inextricably linked by the interactions at the level of the host immune system, there are many similarities in these two epidemics. Both diseases are reliant on recognition of possible infection prior to the onset of symptoms, yet both are engulfed by crippling stigmatization undermining that self-identification, and both require long periods of adherent pill-taking to control or cure disease.
– A person infected with TB disease shows signs of symptoms and usually feels ill.
– Symptoms include coughing up blood, fever, chills, night sweats, shortness of breath, chest pains, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue.
– It is possible to spread the TB bacteria from the infected person to others.
– A skin or blood test will indicate if a person has been infected with the bacteria.
– Treatment with antibiotics for 4-9 months is required to treat active TB disease.
– Persons with a weak immune system, such as those with HIV or diabetes, are more prone to catching the TB disease.
– TB is a leading cause of death for people infected with HIV.
This becomes especially important but increasingly difficult as the impact of the disease lifts and the patient feels better.
Perhaps most important of all, both diseases feed off the frailties of human society, occurring most frequently where social and structural barriers have contributed to unprecedented burdens of disease and have made public health responses all the more challenging to implement.
Read: Tuberculosis Fast Facts
Lessons learned from three decades of responding to HIV/AIDS have taught us that we cannot hope to end the HIV epidemic through treatment alone.
We must revolutionize the approach to HIV prevention of transmission and at the same time convey to the broader public and decision makers the urgency in providing a comprehensive response.
In similar vein, the STOP TB Partnership´s Global Plan to Stop TB, 2016-2020 presents a new way forward for the next five years on the road to eliminating TB by 2035. The Global Plan focuses on actively engaging community as part of the response — lobbying for greater political leadership, investing in new drugs and new drug regimens, and investing in an effective vaccine, but also asking where and how to reduce transmission of TB in families, communities and settings.
The hidden epidemic: The unseen world of childhood TB
Childhood TB: The hidden epidemic
As we know, TB spreads from person-to-person through the air. TB most heavily impacts the urban poor, where undernourished people live in crowded conditions and commonly face economic, social and cultural barriers to completing the minimum of six months of treatment.
We can make it harder for TB to spread by improving indoor air quality and sanitation, investing in proven antipoverty measures but those measures need to be complemented by social support mechanisms that enable patients to be identified early in their disease, and then to access and stay on treatment.