19 March 2010
On World TB Day, 24 March, the British Red Cross is highlighting the need to support programmes which combat tuberculosis (TB), a disease, which although curable, kills around two million people a year.
In Liberia, stigma is a major concern and there is often an assumption that TB is a death sentence. However, a year-long pilot programme, which started in May 2009, is already seeing results. The Red Cross is working in densely populated areas with high TB transmission rates compared with other parts of the country. The programme is about both raising awareness of the disease and support for treatment.
Solomon Addison, project co-ordinator, explained: “We’ve been campaigning in nine communities around Monrovia with the message that TB is curable, treatment is free and most people can remain at home while being treated.”
TB testing and treatment
Noah Dolo, 53, said: “Since I started the treatment I have being doing well. The encouragement from Red Cross volunteers is really helping. The biggest struggle now is getting enough food because the medicine can make you hungry.”
The Liberia Red Cross is working alongside Liberia’s Ministry of Health, which has reported an increase in people with TB seeking testing and treatment. Health officials say this reflects a better understanding that the disease does not have to be fatal.
Another woman with TB, Helena Saye, 50, also explained how the Red Cross has helped her. She said: “When I was diagnosed no one would eat or talk with me, just because I had TB. But volunteers have been visiting me and encouraging me to take my medicine regularly. Now I’m getting better and my family is more understanding.”
This year marks the halfway point for the Global Plan to Stop TB (2006-2015). The campaign for 2010 is focused on finding innovative approaches to stop TB, including advances in integrating TB care into health systems.
Catherine Mears, Red Cross senior health advisor, said: “TB is a global issue that thrives on poverty and marginalises people and so it’s not just a public health issue – it’s also a humanitarian issue.
“With TB being the biggest killer of people with HIV it is vitally important that TB prevention and treatment is integrated into HIV programmes. And increasingly, Red Cross programmes ensure issues such as TB and HIV do not stand alone but are part of ongoing health programmes that look at addressing the priority health needs of communities.”
British Red Cross support
As well as Liberia, the British Red Cross supports TB programmes in South Africa, Lesotho, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. AstraZeneca has been a major funder of our programmes since 2002 and has recently renewed its support until March 2011.
Igor, 47, from Kyrgyzstan has spent half of his life in prison, has a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and is living with HIV and TB. Read his story and find out how, with support from the Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent, he turned his life around.