Today, 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 displaced populations.
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 and support.
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 PhilCAT convention,.
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.
JOSE HESRON D. MORFE, MD, FPCP, FPCCP
Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis