Did you know that tuberculosis is a lung disease that infected over 10 million people in the world last year? We hear every day about malaria. We hear every day about HIV. Rightfully so. But did you know that tuberculosis, or ‘TB’, was the ninth leading cause of death in the world killing nearly 1.7 million in 2017? Unlike malaria or other acute infectious diseases, most TB infections have no symptoms. Chronic cough, fever, night sweats and weight loss are some of its relatively mild symptoms. If left untreated, TB kills about half of those who are infected.
World TB day reminds us that TB is a serious killer. But there is a cure. Just a six-month treatment at your local health facility can save your life or the life of a loved one, a neighbor, or a community member. You can make a difference in an infected person’s life. You can be a teacher to your friends to educate them about TB symptoms and cures. You can be a friend to members of your community who get tested at a health facility because you advised them about TB. You can be a model citizen in your village, because you want your neighbors to be happy and healthy. And you can be a model parent, child, or sibling, because your support to seek testing and treatment for an infected family member could save her life.
Health facilities in Mozambique treat over 86,000 new TB cases every year. A majority of those Mozambicans are still living because they received treatment. They lead normal, productive lives today simply because they got tested for TB and, when they tested positive, treated it. Yet, last year there were just as many Mozambicans living with TB that were never diagnosed, leaving them vulnerable to severe TB symptoms, and even death. Many Mozambicans living with TB never receive a diagnosis and then unknowingly spread the disease to others. Can you imagine accidentally sharing a life-threatening disease with a community member, neighbor or loved one?
TB testing and treatment is the answer. Ask your doctor or nurse the next time that you visit a health facility. If you test positive for TB, be positive about your treatment. TB is curable, but only if you take your medications exactly as the pharmacist and doctor prescribes. Unfortunately, too many individuals use TB drugs incorrectly or prematurely interrupt the treatment process. This often leads to new forms of TB that can be resistant to drugs. Once transmitted to others, drug-resistant TB leads to even more deaths.
The good news is that Mozambique has come a long way in building health sector capacity to diagnose and treat people with tuberculosis. Today, 90% of TB cases that are diagnosed are successfully treated, and the Ministry of Health, with the support of the United States and other health partners, is working hard to bring that number to 100%. The U.S. Government, through the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides more than $5 million each year in TB-related assistance to Mozambique. This assistance supports testing and treatment programs in every province in the country.
We believe in Mozambique’s National Strategy for Tuberculosis because we know that increasing community awareness, expanding TB screenings, and improving technical capacity of health care workers can save Mozambican lives. We applaud the Mozambican men and women who dedicate their service to ensuring that, one day, no Mozambican will suffer from TB. With leadership from you, the people of Mozambique, we can ensure that, by 2035, Mozambique is free of tuberculosis. In full partnership with the Ministry of Health, we can make this happen. Your communities, your neighbors, and your loved ones deserve it.