March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. In this day, in 1882, Dr Robert Koch, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1905, announced the discovery of the bacterium causing tuberculosis, opening the way to research for diagnosis and treatment of this disease. The day is celebrated to raise awareness among the population on health, social and economical consequences of this illness. This year’s theme is “It’s time”: it is time for an international initiative to eliminate tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is currently one of the deadliest infective diseases in the world. Following World Health Organization (WHO) data, everyday more than 4.000 people lose their life to tuberculosis. 30.000 people get affected daily by this preventable and treatable disease.
Tuberculosis and COVID-19
In these days COVID-19 pandemic is putting pressure upon the global health infrastructure. The danger for the health of a major part of world population is having repercussions on every aspect of daily life. The spread of the virus may be critical for health, economy and society on a global level.
In a moment in which collective health is in the spotlight, it is necessary to focus also on the other main epidemics on an international level. Tuberculosis is on of these and affected people are also weakened in the light of COVID-19.
Quoting Stefania Burbo, focal point of the Global Health Italian Network: “A ‘One Health‘ culture shall spread. It means recognizing relations between human, animal and environmental health to diagnose the insurgence of new pandemics in a short time. It is also important to ensure on a global level strong and resilient health systems able to efficiently tackle known epidemics and emergency crises such as COVID-19”.
COVID-19 emergency is impacting on the daily work of World Friends. It was necessary to interrupt health services for the homeless in Turin for precautionary reasons. At Ruaraka Uhai Neema Hospital (RUNH) new health protocols are introduced for an effective reduction of COVID-19 contagion risk. However, programmed activities on the field for our projects in Kenya are suspended. Among these also the ones related to HIPS-TB, our project to fight tuberculosis.
“HIPS-TB – Innovation for the enahncement of screening and detection of Tuberculosis by private sector, utilizing a new paper-based electronic system” is the project by World Friends to raise awareness of people at risk of tuberculosis. The project involves a collaboration between 18 public and private health structures to enhanche detection, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
By comparing WHO and Kenya Ministry of Health data, it emerges that in Ruaraka Sub-County at least 40% of tuberculosis cases may be undiagnosed. HIPS-TB wants to provide fot the elevated demand of diagnostic tests and tuberculosis treatments in the area. The paper-based electronic system allows a fast data gathering and the release of voucher for diagnostic tests for individuals with suspicious symptoms. Test will be held in RUNH and Mathare North Health Center laboratories by applying the innovative GeneXpert technology. The system allows to accelerate diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Tuberculosis and the Global Health Italian Network
The Global Health Italian Network reminds with up-to-date data the resources provided by Global Fund, the largest multilateral financial instrument for the strenghtening of health systems. It provides for around 70% of all international financing to end tuberculosis, with 5,3 million people cured in 2018. Global Fund has spent almost 10 billion in the fight against tuberculosis from its inception and funds 464 initiatives, 251 partners in 124 countries. HIPS-TB project is also co-financed by Italian Agency for Cooperation for Development – AICS through Global Fund.
Not only ending tuberculosis is part of sustainable development 2030 Agenda as reminded by Stop TB Partnership, which also underlines the urgency of fighting the constnaly spreading medication-resistent tuberculosis. Timur Abdullaev, human rights and health expert, part of the Global Fund Advocates
Network in Uzbekistan and person affected by tuberculosis and HIV, has no doubts: “continuous and consistent investments are necessary for global health, no matter what epidemic, pandemic or disease threatens our well-being and the one of our families and community”.