Red Cross launches third phase of tuberculosis programme in Shanxi

تم النشر: 11 مايو 2015 9:44 CET

By Hler Gudjonsson, IFRC

The third phase of the Red Cross Society of China's (RCSC) multiple drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis (TB) programme has now been launched in the Shanxi province of China. The programme has contributed to the reduction of infection rates in targeted prefectures through improved adherence to treatment protocols and the enhancement of public awareness and knowledge on TB prevention.

“One of my most important tasks is to make sure that the patients take their medication for the whole prescribed period. There are strong side effects from TB drugs and sometimes patients want to discontinue the treatment when the symptoms have receded and they think that they are cured,” said Mrs Zhang Lili, a dedicated RCSC volunteer who follows up on the treatment of three patients.

The programme, which started in Changzhi and Jincheng prefectures in 2012, is financed by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and receives extensive technical support from IFRC East Asia regional health team.

“I was first diagnosed with TB in 2008, and had to be hospitalized because I was coughing blood,” said Mrs Pan Xiaosai, a 75 year-old widow in Yangcheng county, Jincheng prefecture. “My relatives thought I would not make it, but with help from the Red Cross, I have now recovered completely.”

More than 200 new TB cases are identified in Yangcheng every year and today 18 MDR TB patients are still receiving special support as part of the first phase of the programme.

Mr Cui Kunzhu, a labourer in Heibei village in Yangcheng county, was recovering from cancer treatment, when he was first diagnosed with TB in 2011. “I was still very weak, so my body was more susceptible to infection. Soon I started coughing a lot and when blood started coming I realized I probably had TB,” said Mr Cui.

Mrs Zhang not only makes sure that Mr Cui is taking his medication. She also regularly brings rice, egg and milk powder to his house. During winter, she also brings meat to her patients. “A good diet is important to ensure that the body is healthy and able to resist TB and other diseases. All our beneficiaries have very low incomes, so the MDR TB program provides not only the necessary drugs but also protein rich food,” said Mrs Zhang.

Mr Cui has been struggling with this dangerous disease for many years now, and all his neighbours and friends know about it. “Of course there is some discrimination,” Mr Cui said thoughtfully, “But I can understand why people are afraid and I do not blame them.”

Fortunately, despite years of serious illness, Mr Cui has also enjoyed his share of good news. His daughter recently graduated from medical school, of which he is very proud, and finally, after his last medical check-up, the x-ray showed that his lungs have healed. Mr Cui is in the final weeks of taking his strong medication and has been cured of MDR TB.