The National Tuberculosis Programme (NTP) has implemented and continues to explore ways in which they lend support to patients diagnosed and are on treatment for Tuberculosis (TB). This is to motivate patients to proceed with treatment to achieve the end TB 2030 goal.
According to NTP’s Programme Coordinator, Dr. Jeetendra Mohanlall, as of 2018 there were 510 persons diagnosed with Tuberculosis countrywide, 90 per cent of these were on the Direct Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) Regimen.
While this is noteworthy, Dr. Mohanlall also highlighted that it is critical to ensure the health and well-being of the patients and also to ensure that they attend clinic appointments regularly.
NTP’s DOTS Coordinator, Nicola Nero explained that there are various aspects of support that are made available.
There are two types of Tuberculosis diagnoses currently in Guyana. The sensitive Tuberculosis which can be cured within six months of continuous treatment and the Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR) Tuberculosis which is cured with 18 months to two years of constant treatment.
While persons are on treatment, they may encounter many personal challenges. Countrywide, there is the enabler support programme through which hampers, care packages and other tangible means of support are given to patients.
These are funded through the Ministry of Public Health, Global Fund and Food for the Poor Guyana Incorporated. Nero said because of this effort patients adhere to their treatment.
There is also a pilot ‘Hot meal’ programme for the Region Four which accounts for 60 per cent of all cases in the country. Nero explained that while this initiative is welcomed it only caters for those desperately in need.
“Persons with needs, not everybody gets it we have the assessment forms where a social worker would evaluate them so we will just have persons on that list with critical needs and the persons who are generally included are the MDR TB, TB-HIV, persons who are sputum positive, persons who are homeless and persons with very low nutritional status.”
While these means of ensuring patients complete treatment they are also counselled and are placed in support groups.
“There are support groups meeting for patients and social workers and the senior medical officer extends visits to patients as well. So, we are hoping that at some point in time we will be able to get transportation refunds for these persons at least so they can attend clinic.”
As they look in the future, the NTP seeks to reach out further to patients, ensuring they fulfil the obligation of attending clinic regularly.
“When you ask why they didn’t attend clinic; it’s because they don’t have money. So, we are looking into perhaps providing them with a transportation voucher for example. Also, additional vehicles, we are not only looking at persons coming here, but we have to take our services to these people who need it.”
Patients are required to attend clinic when scheduled and be available to receive DOTS in addition to submitting samples when requested by the TB clinic.
Tuberculosis, also known as “TB”, is a disease caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB mainly infects the lungs, although it can also affect other organs. When someone with untreated TB coughs or sneezes, the air is filled with droplets containing the bacteria.
The spread of TB can be prevented through the following actions:
─ Take all of your medication as prescribed until your doctor takes you off them.
─ Keep all your doctor appointments.
─ Always cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Seal the tissue in a plastic bag, then throw it away.
─ Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
─ Don’t visit other people and don’t invite them to visit you.
─ Stay home from work, school, or other public places.
─ Use a fan or open windows to move around fresh air.
─ Don’t use public transportation.
Image: Jules Gibson