Washington: Tuberculosis continues to remain a deadly threat worldwide, particularly in places with high HIV rates.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 8.8 million people contracted TB in 2010, with 1.4 million consequently dying from it. More than 95 percent of TB deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
“TB, like many diseases, disproportionally affects the poor,” CBS News quoted Dr. Steve Neri, the Africa regional director for Project HOPE, as telling HealthPop.
“What makes TB dangerous is if you’re on treatment, and you don’t stay on treatment and finish your full course of medication - which for the regular form can be 6 months and for the drug-resistant strains up to 2 years - you can potentially develop a multidrug resistant TB or pass it on to other people.”
Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that offers land-based medical training and health education programs in over 35 countries.
One of the major TB related problems NGOs like Project HOPE are facing is that it often goes untreated, especially in areas with a high prevalence of HIV and AIDS.
Because often individuals with HIV contract TB - the WHO estimates it causes 25 percent of all deaths for HIV-positive individuals – a number of people incorrectly assume that the symptoms of TB mean they have HIV.
They then believe they have an incurable disease and do not seek treatment.
“We try to help the community to understand that one’s curable, one isn’t, one is a virus, one isn’t,” Neri explained.
“We want people to understand you do have the sings of TB, you need to get tested. If it is positive, we get you treated because TB is curable.”
Another problem HIV poses is than it can frequently make it challenging to properly diagnose TB victims.
Particularly in areas where available technology is often 100 years old, it can be hard to determine whether the person has TB and what form they have from a sample of phlegm smeared on a slide and a basic microscope.
What makes it worse is that individuals with HIV sometimes don’t have the bacteria linked with TB show up on their slides, leading to a wrong diagnosis that they are disease free.