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Mar 22, 2018

Tackling TB and the Link to HIV

World Tuberculosis Day is observed every year on March twenty-fourth. The disease, while preventable and curable, is still a major concern in developing countries, as it is associated with high mortality rates in HIV positive persons. In Belize, one hundred and seventeen new cases were diagnosed last year. According to the Ministry of Health, of the new cases diagnosed, twenty-eight were HIV positive persons, which represent twenty-four percent of all new cases. We stopped in at the TB Health Fair at the Battlefield Park today.

 

Kevin Mendez

Kevin Mendez, HIV-TB Adherence Counselor, Ministry of Health

“What we are noticing from our statistics of 2017, we have 117 cases of persons diagnosed with tuberculosis. Most of the cases are coming from an age range of 20-49, with mostly men being diagnosed with Tuberculosis. What is an interesting thing that has happened is that we are noticing an increase that persons who are HIV positive and persons who are Diabetic are getting diagnosed with Tuberculosis within last year. Like for instance, the cases with diabetics went from 11% increase to 18% increase of persons with diabetes and so we can see that not just persons with HIV are being affected but also diabetics.   The screening can happen in different methodologies. We do a skin test which is one of the primary ways of diagnosing TB; this diagnoses latent TB, though. This diagnoses if you have the bacteria in your system but not having the active TB disease. So, if your skin test comes out reactive, we go with an x-ray and if that indicates TB, we follow with sputum samples, which is a sample of the cold from the lungs that we would collect and send to the lab for further screening.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Now, this is a preventable and curable disease; talk to us about the treatment?”

 

Kevin Mendez

“You’re right. It is preventable and curable. To prevent it, if you cough, you do proper coughing techniques; sneeze in your sleeve or if you do it in your hands, use hand sanitizer. The treatment is a period of six months for a person not HIV positive and for the HIV positive person the treatment is extended at nine months. The treatment works in two phases. There is an intense phase that lasts two months. After those two months, you start therapy and we do some screening to ensure that the medication is functioning effectively. And if your results come out negatively at that phase, we continue with a second phase which can be four or seven months depending on the person’s case. So, after that phase of treatment we do further screening to ensure you are cured from tuberculosis.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“The treatment, is it free? Or is there a cost?”

 

Kevin Mendez

“The treatment in country is free and as well all the screenings are for free. One thing, though, with the treatment, because TB is a public health issue, it is important for us as adherence counselors and nurses involved in the care of TB do, we do direct observe therapy. That means we would either go to the house and do a home visit or you come to the clinic and we have to see you taking the medication.”

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