World TB Day: Unite to End TB in PNG
On this World TB Day, 24 March 2016, the Australian Government reiterates its commitment to working with the PNG Government, communities, development partners, civil society, and the private sector to “Unite to End TB”.
TB is the most common cause of death from infectious disease in PNG despite being curable. According to the National Department of Health, more than 28,000 cases of TB were reported in 2014 with the majority being focused in the so-called ‘hotspots’ of NCD, Morobe, Gulf and Western Provinces.
The rise of multi-drug resistant TB, known as MDR-TB, has made the situation more challenging. MDR-TB requires longer, more complex and exponentially more expensive treatments for patients. PNG has some of the highest rates of MDR-TB in the world, with the epicentre being Daru Island in Western Province.
To control the spread of MDR-TB, the PNG and Australian Governments have been partnering with the Burnet Institute – a leading Australian infectious diseases agency – and World Vision to strengthen and scale up the response in Western Province.
The Australian Government is providing a package of assistance to the Western Province Health Office focused on improving local leadership, implementing effective case finding and treatment models, and strengthening diagnostic services. In 2016, this assistance includes a $2.0 million grant to the Burnet Institute to provide technical support through the deployment of internationally renowned TB experts, a $1.4 million grant to World Vision to establish community outreach centres to better find and support people affected by TB, and the funding of 23 doctors, nurses and other health workers and support staff to implement the response.
These investments in Western Province are having an impact. Between June 2014 and December 2015, the proportion of patients with MDR-TB retained in care increased from 65 percent to 99 percent. In December 2015, there were 344 patients receiving DOTS therapy, the standard treatment for TB, and of those cases enrolled in 2014, more than half successfully completed treatment or were cured.
The Australian Government is seeking new ways to end the TB epidemic in PNG. Through collaboration and dialogue with affected communities and partner agencies the considerable challenges can be overcome and PNG can achieve the World Health Organization’s vision of zero TB deaths, disease and suffering by 2030.
Daru Island TB patient Cynthia Sasua said, "I started my MDR-TB treatment and continued it in the Daru General Hospital and the nurses made sure that I did not miss any of my drugs. Every side effect I felt, I reported to the doctor and I started to open up to all staff sharing with them my fears and concern for which they gave proper information and counselling. They also emphasised the importance of getting enough nutritious food and rest."
Australia remains committed to supporting the control and eradication of Tuberculosis (TB) in Papua New Guinea (PNG). PNG has the highest rate of TB infection in the Pacific and about 25, 000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year.