Covid-19 led to global disruptions inTB testing, care

People suffering from tuberculosis (TB) faced significant challenges in getting tested for TB and coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and accessing treatment and care due to disruption of health services because of the pandemic, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

The report is called “The impact of Covid-19 on the TB epidemic: A community perspective”.

It has warned that the world may not achieve the sustainable development goal (SDG) of ending TB by 2030, if services and TB care remain disrupted due to Covid-19.

Over 70% of healthcare workers from various parts of the world reported that there was a decrease in the number of patients, who visited healthcare facilities to get tested for TB.

While 36% of TB patients, who participated in the survey, said the health facilities they visited for TB care were closed during the Covid-19-induiced lockdown period. TB

And, 70% of officers from Global Fund-implementing countries reported a decrease in the number of people with TB receiving treatment.

Globally, 50% of workers reported the healthcare facility they worked for have reduced TB care services. But 50% of TB patients surveyed in Kenya and India said they had received additional medicines to continue their treatment at home amid the viral outbreak.

There is an urgent need for a recovery plan to get TB responses back on track to achieve SDG commitments to end TB by 2030. “Covid-19 has demonstrated the important role that affected communities play in responding to health crises, reporting barriers to access, supporting peers and filling gaps in services. The pandemic is an opportunity for national TB responses to become more people-centred and to involve communities,” the report said.

A human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), TB and Covid-19 survivor from India shared his experience of delayed diagnosis during a webinar by TB advocacy and research organisations to launch the report on Tuesday. “I faced a lot of stigma and challenges during the diagnosis of Covid-19. Just before that I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. I have been on antiretroviral therapy. It was a very scary situation. Then, I was put on various steroids for Covid-19 with no idea of what was the right treatment for me, I felt very scared,” said the patient.

“After my Covid-19 experience which I had contracted in February, I realised how we need patient- centric care in the US. Because of lack of patient-centric care, TB patients often don’t complete TB treatment. The impact of Covid-19 and TB are compounded due to stigma and delayed diagnosis,” said US-based Aakriti Pandita, a TB and Covid-19 survivor, who is also an expert in infectious diseases (IDs).

“This report shows that the Covid-19 pandemic is absolutely devastating for our quest to end TB. If we were climbing a mountain before Covid-19, that mountain has now become Mount Everest. We need to work extra hard to mitigate the damage and stay focused on TB for the long haul. Collaboration and solidarity within the TB community are critical if we are to have any hope of getting back on track to reach the SDG goals,” said Madhukar Pai, an epidemiologist and the director of The McGill International TB Centre in Canada, in the report.

TB is the world’s leading ID, killing around 1.5 million people annually.

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