March 24th is the World Tuberculosis Day. The day when we salute the people who struggle and often succeed to defeat the bacillus. Doctors and patients alike, helped by social workers, psychologists, public health experts, drug manufacturers, epidemiologists and so many others.
In Romania, 3 people die from TB while other 45 are diagnosed with the disease every day. We are still the member country of the European Union with the most new cases recorded: 1 of 5 Europeans diagnosed with TB is from Romania. Worse than these statistics is that patients who could be cured in a relatively short period become difficult to treat because TB becomes drug resistant. The reasons are many: from under-diagnosis or late diagnosis due to the lack of rapid tests, to the lack of necessary drugs and low patients’ adherence to treatment.
Taking TB drugs every day for 6 months is not easy. The harder it is to take them for at least two years if the tuberculosis is resistant to almost all the existing drugs. The side effects can bring down even the strongest man, let alone one already weakened due to the illness. Daily trips to the clinic for treatment, the new routine that changes the old house-job order, the fear of stigmatization, isolation in the community, fear “of being found out”, all these can make the patient interrupt the treatment. Therefore tuberculosis should not be just the patient’s problem, their little secret hidden between the walls of their house. Is the problem of the entire community, be it a mountain hamlet or an entire country!
In the end, when there is will, the one problem left to solve is the money. The costs for tuberculosis eradication are very high, and not just in Romania. But in the long term, it is an investment that we need to make. If we want to have a Tuberculosis-free Romania in 2050, we must act now!
Romanian Angel Appeal welcomes the recent adoption by the Romanian Government, of the National Tuberculosis Control Strategy for the period 2015 – 2020 and considers it an important step that Romania makes to fight tuberculosis. But equally important is that the budget allocated to thae Strategy – 1.571 billion lei – does not remain only on paper but translate into concrete actions.
Therefore the Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation considers that NGOs that promote the cause of people affected by tuberculosis have today a clear mission: to send a strong message to all those who have the necessary levels and can take action to address this public health problem: the Government and the Parliament.
We can send letters to convince them to participate in the Riga Inter-Ministerial meeting on Tuberculosis in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe. We can sign the petition asking them to endorse and take concrete measures in the fight against Tuberculosis. We can send messages to the Members of Parliament and ask them to sign the Barcelona Declaration and join the Global Parliamentary Group for Tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis does not choose! It has no preference for gender, race, social status or education. Does not have a passport, does not require a visa, it travels freely. Therefore it matters to all of us that:
Costinela Caraene, PR Coordinator