| Azlan Othman |
ACCORDING to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, Tuberculosis (TB) causes about 1.5 million deaths per year, with most infections occurring in developing countries.
In Brunei Darussalam, the rates of TB has decreased from 96 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 59 cases per 100,000 in 2018. In 2018, some 249 new cases of TB were recorded, compared to 311 cases in 2000.
Highlighting these points in his World TB Day address, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar added, “It is time to improve action against access to prevention and treatment of TB; improve accountability; ensuring adequate and sustained funding is included for research; preventing stigma and discrimination against the disease; and promoting fair actions on TB based on ‘right-based and people-centered TB responses.”
“Although there is a reduction in the total number of TB cases in the country,” the minister highlighted, “the rate of decline is very slow in recent years.”
To enhance the response of countries in achieving the targets of stopping TB, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held a high-level meeting on TB for the first time in 2018.
Brunei Darussalam as a member of the UN expressed its full support for the global efforts to implement the WHO’s ‘End Tuberculosis Strategy’, to providing comprehensive, universal, and equitable changes in addressing TB and the Political Declaration on the Fight Against Tuberculosis titled ‘United to End Tuberculosis: An Urgent Global Response to a Global Epidemic’.
As part of its commitment to fulfil the declaration, Brunei Darussalam will continue to strive to stop TB infection in the country by 2030, with a short-term goal of making Brunei a low-burden TB country.
The minister noted, “Two major challenges currently facing the world in relation to TB are multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR TB), as well as TB infection cases among HIV patients (TB-HIV).
“Alhamdulillah, Brunei Darussalam is very fortunate that the rate of cases of TB and HIV-TB infection in this country is very low.
“However, the Ministry of Health (MoH) will continue to be proactive in ensuring the challenges. Hence, the ministry has focussed on three priorities, namely increasing awareness of all parties including health professionals and the public on TB; strengthening TB screening programmes and focussing on specific target groups; and the treatment and monitoring of TB patients, including avoiding the emergence of TB immunity against anti-TB medicines.”
The minister added that the strategy for the elimination of TB in Brunei is not only focussed on the treatment of the disease, but also incorporates a holistic approach where the social and environmental factors that make it easier for individuals to contract TB are taken into account.
“The willingness and persistence of the patient, as well as the support of family members is very important to ensure that the patient heals completely from the disease and do not subsequently infect others,” he said.
“The public is also advised that it is their joint responsibility to adhere to doctors’ advice to take medicines and treatments related to TB as stipulated in Section 8 of the Infectious Disease Act, Chapter 204.
“It is time for us and stakeholders including village heads, the private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), educational institutions and society to work closely and give our full commitment in preventing, controlling and eradicating TB in the country.”
World TB Day is celebrated globally every March 24 with the aim of raising awareness among the general public on the reality that the disease is still prevalent in many countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Stop TB Partnership have chosen ‘It’s Time’ as the theme for this year’s World TB Day celebrations.
The theme embodies a variety of meanings, covering all aspects of the prevention and control of TB, and aims to remind all parties of all the steps that have been taken to tackle the disease and inspire them to accelerate actions for the prevention and control of TB.