ISLAMABAD-Pakistan ranks on 5th place amongst 30 high-burden countries in world struggling to eliminate Tuberculosis (TB) where above 100,000 cases go un-reported annually, speakers said on Saturday.

In an event held here on prevailing situation of TB in country, Advisor Policy & Strategy, National TB Control Programme (NTP) Dr. Syed Hussain Hadi briefly described the situation of Tuberculosis in Pakistan.

He said that Pakistan is on number 5th among 30 high-burden countries in the world and in such circumstances, Pakistan is trying hard to make this world free of TB suffering.

He said that to eliminate DR-TB (which is the worst form of Tuberculosis) USAID with the help of Pakistan team developed a pilot project to study the factors affecting DR-TB patient compliance, treatment outcomes and patient’s treatment adherence.

Dr. Syed Hussain Hadi said that to overcome some of the barriers to accessing and adhering to treatment, a patient-centered supportive care package was introduced to address many of the non-medical challenges that patients face in completing their treatment e.g. financial difficulties, transportation, nutrition, depression, and stigma.

Dr. Abdul Ghafoor, National Advisor for MDR-TB, National TB Control Programme discussed the piloting delivery of comprehensive supportive care to people with Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB).

He said that the pilot project was implemented by National TB Control Programme in collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership of Pakistan. The team forged close working relationships with the provincial TB programmes and local teams Association for Social Development and Association for Community Development at the two pilot sites to introduce the care package activities at ground level.

This project plays a pivotal role in improving treatment adherence, better treatment outcomes and also developed satisfaction in patients as evidenced by patient’s satisfaction survey.

Dr. Syed Karam Shah, Advisor to Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) discussed the implementation arrangements. The intervention was implemented by Stop TB Pakistan through dedicated linkages between two PMDT sites and the target districts, he said. He further defined that regular interaction with the patients and motivating them helps engaging them as ambassadors for DR-TB services. Close coordination with the community plays an important role in addressing stigma and advocacy.

TB control programmes should include structured counselling, travel incentives, family support in their proposals and explore local philanthropy through Stop TB and other activists’ organisations. There should be revision of NSP 2020 and inclusion of lessons learnt from comprehensive package for MDR-TB, he said.

TB experts said that around 100,000 cases of TB in the country remain unreported every year despite the availability of public and private facilities established to eliminate the disease.

Health experts said that 1,700 medical facilities in public and private set-up are providing free of cost TB treatment yet 100,000 patients are not registered anywhere.

Around 44,000 patients annually die of this disease in the country and diagnosis of disease is still a problem.

Around half a million people in the country are suffering from the disease while the government has vowed to eliminate it from the country by 2030.