we mark the 133rd anniversary of Dr. Robert Koch’s
discovery of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacilli –
a day we commemorate to rally everyone to join us in the
continuing fight against tuberculosis. It is an opportunity
to remember those afflicted and those who succumb to this
chronic disease while recognizing the long road we still
need to take before we totally eliminate TB in this country
and the rest of the world. While we celebrate the milestones
we have achieved along the way, we note the significant
burden it brings to our nation.
With nearly 2 out 3 Filipinos infected with the disease,
there is a need to increase community awareness and advocate
for increased political and social commitment to pursue
greater TB control through early diagnosis and appropriate
and adequate treatment for everyone.
Noting at least 60 thousand cases missed annually, we
need to intensify our case finding efforts in the most
vulnerable populations of our society – particularly,
among the poor and malnourished, the rapidly increasing
people living with HIV in our country, the diabetics,
the young and the old, ethnic minorities and internally
For every case left untreated, TB can be transmitted to
10-15 individuals yearly. Such a reality underscores the
need to find, treat and ensure cure for all cases in order
to cut a seemingly never ending cycle that, wrongly managed,
may eventually end with MDRTB or the patients’ demise.
This is this year’s theme: Hanapin. Gamutin.Pagalingin.
I have always believed that no patient would logically
want to continuously remain ill; that if given the right
information and support, they will seek the service they
need and complete treatment as recommended. But harsh
realities can cloud one’s judgement – such
as when hunger, the need to work for a living and survive,
further complicated by false beliefs and social stigma
associated with the disease, overwhelm our health systems.
All these emphasize the need to approach the problem holistically
from all perspectives. We need sustained, predictable
funding for public health centers at the service delivery
level which can only be achieved through political engagement
We need to work together to increase awareness and understanding
of the disease, maximize social media networks and promote
intensified case finding among those with clinical risk
factors and live in congregate settings.
We need to engage private health service providers to
recognize international standards and adopt the National
TB control Program’s Manual of Procedures so that
medical management of TB is standardized and the generation
of more MDRTB cases is minimized, if not avoided. As we
update our clinical practice guidelines on TB, with support
from the professional medical societies, the WHO and USAID,
we hope to educate and convince all health care providers
of the evidence behind the localized application of these
standards when we launch it by August during our annual
We continue to engage private hospitals across the country
as a sub-implementer of the Philippine Business for Social
Progress’ (PBSP) grant from the Global Fund/New
Funding Model for TB. And through USAID’s Innovations
and Multisectoral Partnerships to Achieve Control of Tuberculosis
(IMPACT) project’s subgrant to PTSI, a founding
member of PhilCAT. We encourage those who have yet to
commit to this initiative to get onboard and support private
sector’s contribution to the country’s case
detection rate. Though 11% additionality has so far been
demonstrated, I believe we can still do a lot more.
Bottom line, a lot more challenges lie ahead but as we
swear by in PhilCAT, sama-sama, kayang-kaya! Together,
we can do a lot! So I challenge everyone here and across
the country: STOP TB – Hanapin! Gamutin! Pagalingin!
Maraming salamat po.
HESRON D. MORFE, MD, FPCP, FPCCP
Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis