Patient Support Groups Instrumental in Battle Against TB
March 24 is World TB Day, and we join countries and organizations around the world to commemorate global efforts to fight TB. We stand together committed to find, treat and cure the “missed” three million.
March 24 is World TB Day, and Project HOPE joins countries and organizations around the world to commemorate global efforts to fight TB. We stand together with our partners, committed to find, treat and cure the “missed” three million.
Almost nine million people fall ill with TB each year and 1.3 million will die despite the fact that TB is a curable disease. WHO estimates that one third are “missed” by current health systems. While progress has been achieved, new challenges are emerging, particularly around drug-resistant TB which represents a serious threat to the control of the disease.
TB affects mostly people in their economically productive years of life. Many of the “missing” people with TB belong to very vulnerable groups, such as those living in poverty, migrants who do not have access to affordable quality assured care, women and children and those people living with HIV.
Since 1994 Project HOPE supports national TB programs in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa to improve access to diagnosis and quality assured treatment. We also engage communities and civil societies to assist TB patients in completing their treatment.
In Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan we work within communities to provide ongoing support to TB patients during their treatment – which could be from six months to two years in length. Based on assessments of barriers to diagnosis, initiating and completing treatment, Project HOPE works with local health authorities to establish patient support groups. These groups address three issues common to all countries:
- Improving communication between the TB patient and their care giver
- Encouraging families to become actively engaged in the care of family members with TB
- Addressing stigma, feelings of loneliness and isolation so common among TB patients through peer support or former patients, resulting in increased number of patients completing treatment
In many instances community leaders have become engaged in these patient support groups and continue to raise awareness of TB and their communities. We expect that this will have a positive impact on persons with TB symptoms seek care and who may otherwise be missed.
Project HOPE works with others, such as women’s groups, to develop and implement local culturally appropriate solutions to barriers in accessing early diagnosis and care. These barriers may include out of pocket payments that patients must pay for transportation and other costs or permission from husbands and other family members to seek and remain in care.