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Reaching the unreachable; accelerating efforts to end TB by 2030

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Reaching the unreachable; accelerating efforts to end TB by 2030


By Catherine Murombedzi in Goa India
Health Correspondent

The clock is ticking. It is only 79 months to 2030.
The motto: “Ending TB by 2030” is off track. It requires an accelerated response to finding all tuberculosis patients. The above messages resonates with participants from 34 countries to A Call to Action United Against TB, Accelerated Action Towards Achieving SDG on TB. The three-day meeting brought together researchers, medical doctors, communities, TB survivors, health experts, authorities in the medical field, distributors, and the media to the resort town of Goa, India.
Ending TB requires bringing the diagnostic tools to the people. Only after a correct diagnosis can a disease be treated. A patient goes to hospital; science today brings the hospital to the patient.
We are so used to taking patients to the health facility. If we are to end TB, it must be business unusual. With science and innovation ushering in artificial intelligence (AI), human beings have to embrace technology for better outcomes.
Medical teams have to bring effective diagnostic tools to the people. Find All TB Patients and Treat All TB Patients. This is the only sure way to prevent any further spread of infection. Treatment should be people centered. It should also observe rights to health and dignity.
No place is hard to reach if we care enough to reach it. This is a testament to the islets of Bantayan in the Philippines.
Dr Samantha Tinsay, a medical doctor working for the Municipality of Bhatayan, gave an inspiring insight into their never dying spirit in the fight to end tuberculosis (TB) in Bhatayan
With beliefs of witchcraft rife, seeking treatment is at times delayed.

“Being off mainland becomes a barrier as patients have to use boats to cross over to health facilities.
“Bhatayan is off mainland, health staff carry the equipment in pump powered boats. Relying on mother nature, at times, the sea is not kind. We have to travel during the high tide, which can even be at midnight. It enables us to move quicker. At times, there are storms, and we have to delay going back. In one instance, the mayor was very worried. We could not come back on time. The Coast Guard was looking for us. It took us four hours to cover a 30-minute journey. The mayor kept calling on the phone. Working in Bhatayan requires dedication to serve. We have to bring the service to the people. On arrival in the evening, we have to set up our temporary unit. We start with health talks, screening, and counseling, all given on site. When diagnosed with TB, one is educated again and commences on treatment. Test and treat is bringing out positive results. We are grateful for the support from USAID in our pilot program in 2022,” said Dr Tinsay.
In the Philippines, Fujifilm ultraportable X-ray and Molbio’s Truenat are being taken from islet to islet in Bantayan municipality. The test and treat success story is one of the TB best practices.

The ultra portable X-ray machine is battery-operated. It is independent from the need of a laboratory. It breaks down barriers in treatment as the point of care is brought to the people. A mobile clinic, it’s the novel molecular TB testing using Truenat.
“Living in an archipelago, it is not easy to traverse from island to island, from one boat to another smaller boat, walking when the boat can’t make it, during the typhoon season, we still work. Despite the vagaries of the weather, we have surpassed our targets of TB screening. Bhatayan is made up of 25 townships. Using new tools, in November 2023, we screened 1000 patients in one month.
Where the traditional X-ray screened 364 at our partners facility, the portable tools screened 2784. We surpassed our target of 1544. Patients don’t pay in Bhantayan, the government pays our partner for the services. The municipality also purchases some medicines to complement government efforts,” said Dr Tinsay.
With the aim of leaving no place and no one behind, she leads a team to bring screening, diagnosis, and treatment right into the community. A one-stop-shop
The Philippines’ national treatment success rate was 80% as per (WHO Global TB Report 2023). TB services have also been made an integral part of a broad range of healthcare services provided by Bantayan Rural Health Unit, such as HIV counseling, testing and treatment, mental health, immunization, vaccination, family planning services, among many others.
Globally, an alarming number of TB prevalence surveys have shown that a large number of people with TB are asymptomatic where the X-ray will not diagnose, and the use of Truenat overcomes the challenge.
Correct diagnosis for effective treatment outcomes can see Ending TB a reality.

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