Every month, The Union Office in Myanmar organises a support meeting for the community of people affected by tuberculosis (TB) in collaboration with the National TB Programme.
The meetings welcome new and ongoing TB patients, as well as patients who have successfully completed treatment, and TB-HIV co-infected patients and families, friends and community members. Participants share experiences, have the opportunity to discuss treatment issues or side effects with healthcare providers and are encouraged to get involved with the TB volunteer network as peer educators.
Healthcare workers in attendance also use the opportunity to screen the friends and families of TB patients, monitor their health and reinforce understanding on effective TB infection control.
At the most recent gathering, Aung Chan Pyae shared his experience as a TB patient:
“I ignored my symptoms at first because I couldn’t afford to visit the doctor”, he explained. “Eventually, a neighbour, who also works with the TB volunteer network, recognised my symptoms and encouraged me to get tested.”
He struggled with the side effects of treatment and very nearly stopped taking his medication but the health centre staff, volunteers and his family encouraged him to continue. He is now in his fourth month of treatment and his health has improved significantly.
These activities are conducted by The Union Office in Myanmar through its TB case-finding project - the Programme to Increase Catchment of TB Suspects (PICTS). PICTS works with the Government of Myanmar’s National TB Programme in 15 townships covering a population of 3.5 million and uses community mobilisation to increase outreach and screening of presumptive TB patients and support treatment adherence.
PICTS began through a TB REACH grant and, following the success of the programme, has been expanded and continued through support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.