TB Voice network has improved TB responses locally
"TB Voice network is led by cured TB patients and other stakeholders and provides community treatment supporters in developing countries with the technical expertise they need to implement sustainable TB control programmes" said Chief Austin Arinze Obiefuna, who is the founder-President of Afro Global Alliance and National Coordinator for Stop TB Partnership in Ghana. Chief Austin was speaking at a pre-conference meeting of the 40th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cancun, Mexico.
"Till today, in most developing countries DOTS (directly observed treatment shortcourse) which underpins the Stop TB Strategy, has improved greatly but now without challenges like inadequate public health personnel, inconsistent drug supply, more effective and accessible tools for testing and treating TB and community involvment" said Austin. "In order to address these challenges, Afro Global Alliance and Chest Department of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, with financial support from the Stop TB Partnership's Challenge Facility for Civil Society, created the initiative of TB Voice Network (TVN)" further explains Austin.
The TB Voice Network is committed to reinforce the role of community treatment supporters in the national policies and TB and HIV programmes in developing countries. Through its network of experts, TB Voice Network trains stakeholders in all areas of prevention, testing and comprehensive care related to TB and TB/HIV. It also assists in community DOTS implementation and conducts situational analysis of community treatment supporters in the field of TB. It provides counselling on DOTS adherence, referral and contact tracing of TB patients, among other community-led roles in TB programmes locally.
The TB Voice Network has also developed a website to give voice to the network of people who got cured of TB (www.tbvoice.net), informs Austin.
"75% population in Ghana lives in rural areas. There are many misconceptions related to TB - including the belief that offending Gods may get a person infected with TB" says Austin. Not surprising, the TB-related stigma and discrimination rages high in these communities and blocks access to existing TB services on prevention, treatment and care. This was a key motivation to bring cured TB patients together and establish ways in which they can have a voice to reduce TB-related stigma and increase access to existing services.
"The voices of cured TB patients are needed to help people understand that TB is curable" asserts Chief Austin. The TB case detection rates have gone up in communities TB Voice Network works, suggesting the role of community involvement in improving TB responses at all levels.
The National TB Programme (NTP) in Ghana also uses the TB Voice Network in its advocacy, communication and social mobilization initiatives. "TB Voice Network is one of the success stories of NTP" says Austin.
"We are meeting parliamentarians to declare TB as a national emergency and also demanding laboratories in Ghana [to test for anti-TB drug resistance]" says Austin.
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