WHO Success Story: Helping tackle Tuberculosis
“Oh yeah! This is like having a new lease on life. I used to be so scared of getting treatment but now I am so glad I did. I’m practically back to normal” recalls 45 year old Luthfee who has just completed his DOTS treatment.
Since the WHO recommended Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) was introduced to Maldives in 1997 a large number of Tuberculosis (TB) patients have continued to receive effective DOTS treatment. This medical protocol has already been implemented in 119 countries worldwide and is recognised as being the most efficient and effective treatment currently available for infectious TB cases.
Each year 2 million people across the world die from this respiratory disease primarily spread by coughing and sneezing. In the Maldives the death toll and the incidence of the disease has vastly reduced thanks to a very successful national tuberculosis programme backed by WHO.
WHO has been supporting the National Tuberculosis Programme since 1967 and has been providing the program with all the necessary medication since the year 1970. Since 1997, the national TB control Programme has been following the DOTS Strategy and Maldives has achieved notable successes in the area of TB control.
The national TB control programme which incorporates tackling multi-drug resistant TB, HIV/AIDS/TB is the best in the region. The success of the programme is attributable to the participation of the community, private practitioners and integrated care provided at the peripheral level. The main thrust of the programme is the creation of awareness and implementation of DOTS and WHO provides support in the form of training, equipment, medications and technical assistance. TV, radio and leaflets and posters distributed to the community have all ensured that people are aware of this deadly virus.
The programme has helped reduce the stigma of TB among the community to some extent and people are coming forward themselves to seek treatment for the disease.
According to Hawwa Ismail, “I get very worried if I start to have a continuous cough and I make it a point to see the health worker or the doctor. I’m always being told I am just being paranoid, but then again it is always better to be safe than sorry” she added.
Proponents of the DOTS programme believe that the success of DOTS is thanks to the dedicated staff at the Chest Clinic. However, TB stigma still prevails to some extent in the general public and it is hoped that the programme will continue to stay effective in the coming years.