Tackling tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea

Video transcript

Papua New Guinea has one of the highest tuberculosis prevalence rates in the world.

"We report about 29,000 case of TB per year. We are classified as one of the third or fourth highest burden TB countries in the world."

"TB is a big problem across the nation. It's burning, it's like fire."

Tuberculosis is preventable and curable. World Vision is working in hotspots like Port Moresby and Daru.

Effective treatment requires daily medication. However, many patients don't complete the treatment, leading to new, multiple drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis known as MDR TB.

In Daru, the Australian Government and World Vision are partnering with Papua New Guinea's Health Department to support the Stop TB project.

"The rapidly increasing number of drug-resistant TB patients is actually the main concern. With the drug sensitive type you can actually have a cure rate of 100 percent, but if it's the drug-resistant TB it's down to sixty, seventy percent."

Through the Stop TB project, World Vision operates DART sites, which stands for Daru Accelerated Response to Tuberculosis. Through these sites we're bringing diagnosis, treatment and case management closer to patients. This eases the burden on local health services and helps to improve completion rates.

"What we did was to set up five tents all over the island, and deployed treatment supporters and nurses will be ready to accept the patients and take care of them every day."

Each DART site uses the World Health Organization-approved approach known as DOTS: directly observed treatment, short-course. Treatment supporters like mother Daisy are trained to observe patients take their medication daily.

"When the patients start coming we start giving them their treatments. They talk to us, they sit with us and we talk to them."

"So the idea is to make the services accessible to all the people in the island. Some of our students need to be in school during the hours that our DART sites are open, so before they go to school some of our treatment supporters will go to their houses, deliver the medicine so that they are ensured that dose for the day is taken."

Patients also receive a freshly cooked meal, to help their bodies deal with the strong antibiotics.

"Some people they'd rather not get on the drugs, they'd say that 'Oh I'd rather die instead of feeling all of these side-effects'. The rule is if you don't take your medicines you will not be getting the lunch, so because they they want to get lunch then more and more patients came every day."

"The drug has an impact also sometimes it made us weak or dizzy. But like today we able to handle it. I can live a normal life again, as I used to."

"It's a great work that we are doing in here. I'm like that when I'm talking. I always have tears, especially for my people."

In Port Moresby, and throughout Papua New Guinea, World Vision and the National Health Department also partner with the Global Fund.

"The government, they funded us, firstly to address TB through the Global Fund."

There are 200 basic management units throughout the country and World Vision supports 28 priority units to strengthen local health systems and deliver daily treatment.

One unit, the Six Mile Clinic in Port Moresby, has an on-site lab and government technicians, so people can find out their diagnosis much faster and get treatment before they can spread the disease.

"We're trying to make sure that they're in highly densely populated areas as well so that everyone has access to them. It actually assists TB patients comply to their treatment but also assist them if they need additional support that they're not getting from their family."

"TB is not my business alone; it's everybody's business and I can't fight or a government can't fight TB alone. We need partners."

"I appreciate what World Vision is doing to support our patients. So we are not losing a hope so we keep on faithfully taking our medicines until we complete."

"I'm very passionate about what I do. If you're working with people in the community and seeing how they suffer, you want to do more as a person. TB is airborne; you don't go out and look for it. Not to get TB is not to breathe. In order for us to stop TB we need to be looking out for these patients, diagnosing them, treating them and encouraging them to complete their treatment, and curing them."