Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious bacterial illness, which primarily affects the lungs. The most common form of TB is the pulmonary form and the health outcomes for infected people are subject to social factors including poverty, poor access to health care and widespread stigma. The following is a look into the prevalence of TB in Brazil and ongoing efforts to fight the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized tuberculosis as a global epidemic for 30 years. Brazil sits at 20th in the world in terms of the number of recorded cases year on year. It is one of 22 countries where the burden of the disease is high based on considerations. As of 2020, the incidence of TB in Brazil was 45 in every 100,000. People with TB in the country often struggle to afford treatment. The care barriers that arise from economic deprivation negatively affect health outcomes for those who have been diagnosed. Also, people with TB cannot access treatment and care and the transmission rates are increasing.
A survey conducted from 2019 to 2021 by the National TB Programme of Brazil alongside the University of Espirito Santo and the Global TB Programme revealed that 48% of TB-impacted households in Brazil had been forced to spend over 20% of their annual income on treatment. The average cost from the onset of symptoms to the conclusion of treatment came to $1573. Certain demographics are also more vulnerable to TB in Brazil. Homeless Brazilians are 56% more likely to contract the disease and those who are in prison have an increased risk of 26%. Furthermore, Brazilians living with HIV/AIDS are 21% more likely to contract TB. As of 2020, 11% of all TB patients with known HIV status were HIV-positive.
Solutions and Progress
As of 2019, the treatment success rate for TB in Brazil was 69%. In 2017, the country made a commitment to eliminate the disease by reducing transmission by 90% and deaths by 95%. Early in 2023, the Brazilian government launched the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Elimination of Tuberculosis and Other Socially Determined Diseases in an effort to meet the aforementioned goals by the end of the decade. The committee will involve collaboration between departments across Brazil’s government. It aims to address the core drivers of the country’s high TB burden, such as poverty, malnutrition and financial insecurity.
Although TB treatment is free due to interventions by Brazil’s public health sector, many Brazilians who suffer from the disease also face financial challenges when trying to access high-cost treatment and care. This is especially true for those living in poverty, as they are more likely to go down with the illness. The wide-ranging effects of a TB diagnosis from health, financial and employment difficulties suggest that there is a need for a multisectoral response in efforts to address the crisis. On the bright side, Brazil continues to work toward meeting its target of eliminating the disease by 2030.
– Martha Probert