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World TB Day Coverage: Lesotho, Armenia, Drug Resistance, HIV Coinfection

“To mark World [Tuberculosis] Day on Wednesday, Medecins Sans Frontieres [MSF] drew attention to Lesotho, which has the world’s third-highest prevalence of HIV … and the fourth-highest prevalence of tuberculosis,” the Associated Press reports. The average life expectancy in the country is just 36 years, according to the AP.

Several factors complicate management of TB and HIV in Lesotho, including violence and poverty, the news service reports. Some people coinfected with HIV and TB “must walk five hours to reach a clinic for their medication,” the AP writes, adding that “[m]any men in Lesotho travel to South Africa to work in the mines and some return with HIV and” drug-resistant TB. Between 80 and 90 percent of people living with TB in Lesotho also have HIV, according to Helen Bygrave, a medical coordinator for MSF. 

“Most clinics in Lesotho were set up through partnerships between the government and international groups. In seeking ways to make the most of scarce resources, Medecins Sans Frontieres is helping to support and run a program in which nurses are given training to take on roles doctors might have carried out. Community health workers later make sure patients are sticking to their treatment regime,” the news service reports (Tay, 3/24). MSF’s Web site features a Q&A with Laura Trivino Duran, the MSF tuberculosis programme focal point for the organization’s HIV/AIDS program in Lesotho (3/24).

Also on World TB Day, VOA News looked at TB data from the WHO. The agency “says despite continuing efforts against tuberculosis, one-third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis germs and up to 10 percent of them will become sick or infectious,” VOA News writes. Each year, the number of new cases in Southeast Asia, Africa and the eastern Mediterranean continues to rise, according to the WHO. It also “says the disease killed 1.3 million people worldwide in 2008 – most of them in southeast Asia and Africa” (3/24).

In related news, the Sydney Morning Herald examines the emergence of drug-resistant TB and looks at the challenges and prospects of controlling the disease. It focuses on a patient in Armenia and looks at TB control there. “Widespread misuse of the antibiotics created to combat tuberculosis – particularly in the former Soviet Union and China – has led to the emergence of drug-resistant strains that now infect at least half a million people globally each year, less than 3 percent of whom receive proper treatment,” according to the newspaper.

The article quotes Mario Raviglione, the head of the WHO’s Stop TB Department, who said, ”Rich countries thought TB was a disease of the past … It’s always a problem of ‘the others’ – a problem of the poorest. But it kills twice as many people as malaria and almost as many as AIDS. If you think this doesn’t affect you, you are dead wrong” (Wroe, 3/25).

Also in light of World TB Day, GlobalPost features a selection of photographs documenting TB in Mumbai, India (Rochkind, 3/24).

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