We had a girl who had TB, but she was scared to go to the hospital, as she did not want her family to know. She did not see the doctor. I know she was coughing. After I learnt about TB, I worry too about this too. I talked to her and I talked to her father. He then understood if she takes the medicine, she is not contagious; he says he will not kick her out of the house. She then is calm and will go to the hospital. Now she takes the antibiotics for 3 weeks already. (From a local TB team member from Beloi)
We all hear that TB is a killer and rife across the world – a contagious and deadly disease. But did you know that Timor-Leste, (Australia’s 2nd closest neighbour), has the 7th worse rate of TB in the world! (per 100,000 population). People die every day of this curable infectious disease. Families suffer from what is often a prolonged sickness; this means it’s difficult to work and earn money and the whole family is affected. Poor knowledge and stigma of TB are huge barriers to elimination. People are unaware of the symptoms of TB or fear it. The overarching problem of Tuberculosis is large and complex, and remains under-recognised and under-treated.
But what has Philanthropy got to do with TB in Timor-Leste?
Philanthropy has long played a major role in the search for cures to deadly and debilitating diseases. From the dawn of modern medicine until World War II, philanthropists were the primary sources of funding for medical research. That role changed after the war, when science and technology became a national priority and the government began making massive investments in scientific and medical research.
Maluk Timor – has been lucky that philanthropy has supported the work that we do in fighting TB.
Maluk Timor has been had an active TB program since 2017 – piloting both a household contact tracing and peer counsellor support program for multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB patients (in partnership with Burnet Institute and Klibur Domin); and leading household contact tracing for people with TB in Dili Municipality;
With the support from the John Burge Trust Fund (JBTF) administered by State Trustees , we have been able to expand this project taking a multi-dimensional approach toward the reduction of the TB epidemic through education and intensified case finding of high-risk populations in Dili and Aileu municipalities, and through the establishment of infection control processes in Timor-Leste’s six hospitals.
This will engage Maluk Timor’s existing in-country team – with proven experience in TB detection, treatment and prevention (on an approved collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s National TB Program and The Global Fund), with funding already secured. This investment by JBTF will leverage this existing work and further enhance it would make a very significant impact, particularly in the difficult context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has left the ever-present threat of TB somewhat overlooked.
With the support from JBTF, we can continue this great work in supporting vulnerable people to combat this very deadly but very curable disease.