TB is commonly found in people living in squalid, overcrowded and poorly-ventilated areas.
It affects mostly the poor.
Health workers are reluctant to go to these places, so most of the people are not aware of the symptom of the disease, or how to improve their living conditions.
Many of these people also do not or cannot read, so the reports in the media do not really help.
I wonder if the volunteer treatment support system still operates.
I worked as a volunteer treatment supporter from home for three years, looking after and seeing patients every day.
The system worked very well for me because I was a trained Christian counsellor.
Before I became a community TB DOTS treatment supporter, I did not know if there was anyone living with TB in my community or on my street.
When I became one, I soon realised that almost every household had at least a TB sufferer.
I started with Hope Worldwide and finished with World Vision with the TB DOTS programme when they discontinued the volunteer treatment support system.
I believe the programme was effective.
Proper identification and training was given to volunteers who had a heart and concern for the community.
People will not come out and say they have TB unless there is a proper support system in place.
The patients themselves do get marginalised, discriminated against and abused by immediate family members.
You will only know this if you are familiar with the symptoms of TB and when you live in a community.
I went to every home to provide awareness and treatment.
I would like to suggest the following to revive the TB treatment support system:
- Identify volunteers who can be committed to the system;
- provide basic training for volunteers in the aspects of symptoms, medication and counselling; and
- Give them a small incentive in appreciation for their efforts.
TB will not go away and is on the rise.
Not all health personnel are able to reach everyone in the communities.