(Left to right) Dr Phonmaly Chittamany, Dr Phouvang Vongvichitand Dr Phoumy Phothisane.
(KPL) Around 3,300 tuberculosis (TB) related deaths have been reported each year in Laos, according to the World Health Organisation.
In the Western Pacific Region, Lao PDR still has a high TB burden and is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of TB, with an incidence of 182 per 100,000, and a death rate of 53 per 100,000; every year, there are an estimated 3,300 TB related deaths, reported in 2016.
The National Tuberculosis Centre of the Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the World Health Organization and mass media held a meeting to discuss on media involvement for controlling TB in Vientiane Capital on March 23.
The meeting aims to disseminate TBinformation through mass media for the public to know and understandhow to prevent and treat it.
This year marks the 135th anniversary of the World TB Day (March 24, 1882) with a slogan to unite efforts to "Leave No One Behind” as we enter the second year of a two-year "Unite to End TB" campaign. It calls to act on the need to address stigma, discrimination, and marginalization and overcome barriers to accessing care.
One of the targets of The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 adopted by the United Nations in 2015 is to end the global TB epidemic.
The WHO End TB Strategy, approved by the World Health Assembly in 2014, calls for a 90% reduction in TB deaths and an 80% reduction in the TB incidence rate by 2030, compared to 2015.
In this region, the Regional Strategy in the Framework for Action on Implementation of the End TB Western Pacific, 2016-2020 has also been endorsed and is being implemented.
"Reaching communities in remote areas and ensuring that they have access to healthcare services is one of the five priorities of the WHO Country Cooperation Strategy,” said WHO officer, Ms Irene Tan.
The TB mobile outreach team provides services to villagers in hard-to-reach areas; in 2016, 4969 TB patients were detected. Although most of TB diagnosis and treatment services are free-of charge, 60% of the TB cases remained untreated in 2016.
There is a need to have a multi-sectoral approach and engage more stakeholders in TB prevention and care services, Ms Tan said.
In 2016, about 4,969 (40%) TB patients in Laos received treatment. The treatment success rate was 90%. 275 (5.5%) TB-HIV co-infected cases and 39 Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases were found, but 60% of the TB cases remain undetected. This is due to financial barriers to diagnosis, low health-seeking behaviours of populations in remote and rural areas and limited access to TB control services, for example chest X-rays and Gene Xpert, said the Deputy Director of the National Tuberculosis Centre, Dr Phouvang Vongvichit.
Today, the health sector has improved TB control services, which are available nationwide from health centres to district, provincial and central hospitals. TB is curable if treated for 6 months for TB and 9 months for MDR TB; most TB services, treatment and diagnoses are provided free-of- charge and are covered by health insurance schemes, said Dr Phouvang.
He called on the public to test for suspected TB, saying that we have proper diagnostic tools (digital X-ray machine and Gene Xpert) used for TB detection and that treatment is available for patients who test positive for TB.