Volunteers combat stigma and assist with treatment adherence in Myanmar

The Union’s Programme to Increase Catchment of Tuberculosis Suspects (PICTS) works with the National Tuberculosis Programme to address health problems and combat the cultural taboos that increase stigma and create barriers to treatment.

Through the mobilisation of an extensive volunteer network, community members distribute information on TB symptoms and how and where to access treatment, conduct door-to-door health education and outreach, provide TB contact tracing, identify presumptive TB patients and facilitate sputum transport between clinics and patients’ homes.

This support plays an integral role in PICTS. One family spoke with Union communications staff about the effect the TB volunteers had on their lives.

A mother had been living with a persistent cough for over five months when a volunteer knocked on her door and spoke to her about TB. The volunteer explained the treatment and encouraged the woman to get tested, while also screening her family members for TB. Through this intervention, both the mother and son discovered they had TB and were initiated on treatment.

The volunteer continued to support them, by delivering their medication daily and putting them in contact with other groups for nutritional and psychosocial support to keep them motivated to complete their treatment.

“Now I understand that TB is curable. I urge others who suffer from TB to seek treatment – there is no need to feel shame over the disease. Be brave and take the complete course of medicines as they can bring your healthy life back”, said the mother, speaking to a member of The Union Office in Myanmar about her experience.

She and her son have both completed their treatment and are living healthy lives.

PICTS implements case finding activities which cover a population of 3.5 million people in Myanmar. To date, 66,920 presumptive TB cases have been referred by their extensive volunteer network since the programme’s inception in 2012.

PICTS is funded by a grant from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.