Health professionals on Monday highlighted the high rate of undiagnosed tuberculosis (TB) patients – currently at 15% – as one of the key aspects requiring concerted effort in the crisis, which claimed about 44,000 lives last year alone.
Stigmas against symptomatic patients in many rural areas stemming from the belief the disease is highly contagious and almost incurable are partly to blame for discouraging check-ups and hospital attendance, they said at a discussion session on TB eradication, orgainsed by non-profit organisation Nari Maitree at a city hotel.
But the stigmas and fears are overblown as the country's medical services have improved considerably to treat patients and the government along with its partners should raise adequate awareness in this regard, they opined.
The programme was held with a view to helping boost coordination among the concerned organisations in the country ahead of a pivotal UN meeting in September next year.
Citing a World Health Organization (WHO) report, they said about 3.6 lakh people are being affected every year by the disease. At least, 978 people are being affected by the disease every day and among them 16 are multi-drug resistant (MDR) patients, they claimed.
From the state-run National TB Control Programme, its Director Dr Md Khurshid Alam and Assistant Director Dr Afzalur Rahman were present at the event alongside Brigadier General Md Zubaidur Rahman, chief health officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, Shaheen Akter Dolly, executive director of Nari Maitree, Masuda Begum, director of health and nutrition division of Nari Maitree and Dr Shayla Islam from Brac.
"To eliminate tuberculosis, advocacy and coordination among all stakeholders has to be strengthened. Increased funding by donors is also needed," they claimed.
Masuda Begum of Nari Maitree said that according to WHO, Bangladesh is one of the 30 countries in the world where the disease is more prevalent.
Dr Khurshid Alam also stressed collaboration among all the stakeholders while calling for spreading the messages about the availability of free treatment and diagnosis of tuberculosis among people.
In her speech, Shaheen Akter Dolly said, "We are hopeful that we would be able to root out the disease from Bangladesh soon with the combined efforts of all concerned, including the government."
She called on the government to contribute more financially to make the National TB Control Programme a successful initiative.