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Australia : Mitigating a drug-resistant TB epidemic in PNG.

A support team for drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) patients on Daru Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) aims to provide psycho-emotional support, facilitate adherence and improve the wellbeing of people undergoing treatment. This innovative model engages and empowers the affected community in Daru by training a team of five peer counsellors, called TB-PALS (People Affected by, Living with, or having Survived TB) who support patients through 20 months of treatment to cure.

Burnets field team leader, Dr Kudakwashe Chani, said current treatment for DR-TB required patients to come in to a treatment site in the hospital or community every day for almost two years. They receive a daily injection and oral medications for eight months, and then daily oral medications.

Its quite a tall order, but is the best we have whilst we increase access to newer drugs and shorter treatments. This long-term treatment disrupts peoples livelihoods and has a huge social impact they might need to go and fish, or may be unable to work, he said.

Burnet has adopted a holistic approach patient-centred TB care that aims to reduce the impact of social and emotional issues on TB patients and their families, and enable a cure from TB disease. This requires a team approach between communities, leaders, health workers and local governments.

The TB peer counsellors are led by an experienced trained counsellor, Allan Kuma, who emphasises the importance of family support for TB patients. Family support for TB patients is an important part of their care. The team plans to visit all the families of TB patients and focus on education and counselling, he said.

The World Health Organization says TB is one of the top 10 causes of deaths globally, yet most TB cases are curable if treated. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among health targets of the newly adopted global Sustainable Development Goals.

This project is led by Burnet Institute and is funded through Australian Aid from the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). A similar project is also being run in South Dagon Township, Yangon, Myanmar.

In 2015-16 through the ANCP, Australian Aid supported 18 NGOs to deliver 53 projects in 28 countries focusing on health and education.

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Publication:Mena Report
Date:Apr 7, 2017
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