On World TB Day 2017, it’s difficult to imagine commemorations more colourful and wholehearted anywhere on earth than those of the community of Daru, Papua New Guinea.
Held under the theme ‘Unite to end TB’, the event began with a procession around the town of Daru, which has one of the highest rates of drug-resistant TB globally, and the focus of Burnet’s RID-TB project.
At the local stadium, a succession of speakers representing World Vision, Western Province, the Health and HIV Implementation Services Provider, and Daru General Hospital, told of recent successes, and the importance of maintaining the fight.
IMAGE: World TB Day supporters ‘Unite to end TB’ on their march through Daru
“A lot still remains to be done in order to eliminate TB from the Island and the Western Province at large,” said Western Province TB Manager, Lucy Morris.
“One of the major barriers is stigma and discrimination, which we need to fight as a community. Everyone with symptoms should go for testing and be treated early at Daru General Hospital.”
A highlight of the event was the personal experiences shared by three former TB patients, two of whom, Donald Kila and Lucy, are TB Pals, peer counsellors from the local community, a new initiative established by Burnet.
IMAGE: Burnet Field Technical Coordinator Dr Pilar Ustero Alonso joins the celebrations
They encouraged the community to support patients with TB, and urged patients to take their medications correctly until completion.
“When the doctor told me I will be on treatment for two years, I wondered how I was going to play with my friends, how I was going to shoot the ball with them,” Mr Kila said.
“But something gave me hope. I thank my wife and my mother for supporting me all the way.” He reminded the community: “TB is curable. Diagnosis is for free. Treatment is for free.”
IMAGE: Traditional dancers at the stadium in Daru in support of World TB Day
Diagnosed multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) in 2007 when there were no medicines for MDR-TB in Daru and PNG, Lucy paid tribute to the care she received while undergoing treatment.
“We have the best doctors in Daru General Hospital, including now from Spain,” she said of Burnet Field Technical Coordinators Dr Pilar Ustero Alonso and Dr Lucia Gonzalez Fernandez.
Find out more about Burnet’s TB research in PNG.