Myanmar ramps up anti-TB activities
By Pyae Thet Phyo
The Ministry of Health has launched an expanded three-year program aimed at using anti-retroviral treatments to simultaneously target HIV and tuberculosis patients across Myanmar, Health Minister U Phay Thet Khin said on March 24.
A similar program was conducted in 2013 but reached only 28 townships throughout the country.
“We will implement expanded TB-HIV collaborative activities using ART [anti-retroviral treatments] from 2014 to 2016, and we will do it across the country,” U Phay Thet Khin said during a ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw marking World Tuberculoses Day.
He said the ministry will also scale up activities aimed at diagnosing TB in people living with HIV, providing isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) to non-TB patients living with HIV, and preventing TB.
“We are implementing these TB-HIV collaborative activities to ensure that the needed treatment reaches TB patients living with HIV, and to prevent the prevalence of those two diseases,” he said.
The three-year plan is expected to cost US$90.6 million, with financial assistance coming from the nonprofit Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
U Phay Thet Khin said at the ceremony that multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) was becoming an increasingly prevalent problem in Myanmar because many patients lack proper health knowledge and therefore fail to take their anti-TB medicine regularly or don’t complete the full treatment.
He said that globally, there are about 450,000 MDR-TB new patients every year, about 150,000 of whom die.
“In Myanmar we can find and give treatment to only 25 percent of the estimated patients, and the rate of success in treatment is only 48 percent,” he said, adding that according to a survey conducted last year, MDR-TB is found in 5 percent of new TB patients and 27pc of long-term patients in Myanmar.
He said patients who have not had treatment must be found as quickly as possible, but to do so the ministry needs more health staff, human resources, technology and financial assistance. – Translation by Thiri Min Htun