Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros recently called on the Department of Health (DOH) to step up its efforts in combating Tuberculosis, saying that the increased number of detected cases, along with the number of fatalities, cannot be ignored.
“Sa buong ASEAN region, we have the highest figures on tuberculosis incidence. And despite the fact that we have been fighting this condition for a very long time, we seem to be making very little headway,” Hontiveros said.
During the recent briefing given by the DOH to the Senate Committee on Health, data from the DOH revealed that from 1,200 cases reported per day in 2016, there were 1,600 new cases detected every day in 2018. This is due in large part to GenXpert, which is a more accurate and a faster way of detecting tuberculosis. The briefing also revealed that there are more than 1 million cases of tuberculosis around the country, with 60-70 people dying of the condition daily.
Even with availability of free anti-tuberculosis medicine, the disease itself can at times prove resilient. The unfortunate lack of awareness, and the social stigma that some people experience when they are found to have tuberculosis, prevents patients from seeking help. It was reported that only one out of every five people with symptoms of the disease consulted a health worker.
While Hontiveros welcomed the improvements in detection procedures, she said that there should be a corresponding improvement in response and treatment.
“Perhaps the DOH can consider declaring a similar state of emergency for tuberculosis, like it has done for conditions like dengue, in order for local government units, hospitals, personnel and partners to mobilize resources to fight the disease. It may not be as high profile as some other conditions, but the sense of urgency remains very real, and I encourage our colleagues in the DOH to respond swiftly to this problem in much the same way that it has with others.
It is also vital that we remain vigilant in educating the public and in encouraging people to consult health professionals to help prevent this disease,” Hontiveros said.
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