Astana Conference Highlights Project HOPE’s TB Work in Central Asia
Kazakhstan ranks in the top 30 countries in the world with the highest prevalence rate of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Project HOPE, government officials, and other NGOs recently gathered in Astana, the country’s capital, to discuss TB treatment and prevention strategies. Ahead of World TB day, we’re calling attention to the ongoing fight against tuberculosis – in Central Asia and beyond.
Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the deadliest diseases known to man. It affects one in four people around the world and killed 1.3 million people in 2017. Yet TB is also completely preventable and treatable, especially compared to other lethal, uncurable diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
In fact, the 22 countries with the highest tuberculosis burden account for 83% of estimated cases in the entire world.
Consider the prevalence rate of TB in the United States and England, two of the world’s most developed countries: 2.8 per 100,000 people in the U.S. and 9.2 per 100,000 in England. When you compare those figures to the rate in a country like Mozambique – 551 cases per 100,000 – the disparity is easy to comprehend. In fact, the 22 countries with the highest tuberculosis burden account for 83% of estimated cases in the entire world.
Central Asia is one of the areas of the globe with the highest prevalence rates of tuberculosis. Project HOPE has been working in the region since 1993, to help prevent the spread of tuberculosis through the creation of mobile clinics, the procurement of equipment and supplies, and the training of regional professionals. In 2018, our work there was capped off by the 4th High-Level Regional Meeting on TB on December 5 & 6 in Astana, which saw experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), health ministers from Kazakhstan, and global health ambassadors come together to agree on a plan to fight tuberculosis in the future.
The Challenge of Tuberculosis in Central Asia
While Tuberculosis is one of the world’s most common diseases, the Central Asia region – including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan – has its own challenges that make treatment and prevention difficult. Specifically, multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis is very common in the area. In 2012, it was estimated that 31% of new TB cases were MDR. Additionally, there is a large population of migrant laborers who travel frequently, making it difficult for many patients to receive the type of prolonged care that TB treatment in these areas focuses on.
Fortunately, progress has been made. Much of the work done at the annual conference is about different parties coming together to analyze the current state of the battle against TB and make a plan for the future. “I am pleased to note that the finalized bilateral agreements between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and between Kazakhstan and Tajikistan attest to the effective cooperation among the Central Asian countries,” said Mariam Sianozova, Project HOPE’s Senior Regional Director for Europe and Eurasia.
Tuberculosis and HIV: Complementary Dangers
Of particular note is the association between tuberculosis and HIV. Those who have latent tuberculosis and become infected with HIV have a much higher risk of developing active TB during their lifetime. Those who are already HIV-positive face a larger risk of getting tuberculosis. Patients who have both diseases are particularly at-risk for health issues. Typically, these patients receive anti-viral treatment for both HIV and TB, but coinfection can be more complex than treating either of the cases individually.
How Project HOPE is Fighting TB in Central Asia
Throughout our decades of work in Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, HOPE has had a big impact. Our programs have reached over 137,000 people. We have identified thousands of TB cases among migrants and other populations in the region. As of September 2018, our programs have trained over 5,400 health providers in different aspects of TB. We’ve also trained nearly 8,000 individuals on principles of the WHO’s Stop TB strategy, with support from the USG. Going forward, Project HOPE plans to continue facilitating cross-border cooperation between countries and NGOs to ensure that tuberculosis can be kept at bay – in Central Asia and throughout the world.
If you’d like to help us in our efforts around the globe, including efforts to stop the spread of tuberculosis, please consider making a donation today.