Tuberculosis, a bacterial lung infection transmitted through coughing and sneezing, ranks as one of the most widespread global diseases, with only COVID-19 surpassing it in death toll. In 2021, TB diagnoses worldwide reached 10.6 million, and Moldova alone accounted for 3,000 cases.
On the bright side, the Stop TB Partnership is diligently working to prevent this treatable yet often fatal disease from gaining a stronghold. The organization’s efforts span the globe, aiming to halt avoidable deaths among those who may not otherwise receive adequate health care.
Combating Tuberculosis in Moldova
- Testing Accessibility for the Community – One aspect of disease prevention that the Stop TB Partnership takes very seriously is the testing process, as many may be left undiagnosed, or even misdiagnosed by doctors. Not only this, but many who live in more remote locations do not have sufficient access to testing overall. Notably, Moldova faces a high prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis, with 60% of treated cases being this strain. To address these challenges, the Stop TB Partnership collaborates with Moldova’s National Tuberculosis Program to enhance the availability of XPert testing machines in the community. By distributing 30 XPert machines to community health centers, testing facilities catering to TB and prisons, an estimated 64% of Moldova’s population gains easy access to testing. This initiative marks a groundbreaking step, with Moldova becoming the first country worldwide to implement this technology in community centers. Consequently, 1,374 additional TB cases were detected in the first two years of operation.
- Raising Community Awareness – While the Stop TB Partnership’s current efforts primarily focus on testing, it has previously undertaken projects that focused on enhancing local communities’ understanding of tuberculosis. To combat tuberculosis in Moldova effectively, there is a need for community members to recognize the disease’s symptoms and respond appropriately when a loved one is affected. In 2009, the Stop TB Partnership partnered with Speranta Terrei, a Moldovan nonprofit, to promote awareness among young children through comic strips. These child-friendly comics, illustrated by Stop TB Ambassador Luis Figo, portray heroes battling TB, effectively disseminating messages about disease prevention and treatment to children in an accessible and enjoyable manner. By distributing these comics to four major Moldovan cities, public comprehension of the disease improves, increasing the likelihood of people seeking testing.
- Using AI to Fight TB – In recent years, AI has become increasingly utilized for diagnosing, treating and proposing novel cures for communicable diseases, including TB. As part of its commitment, the Stop TB Partnership introduced AI4HLTH, an initiative that aims to enhance TB diagnosis efficiency through AI technology. The AI effectively assesses chest X-Rays of patients, identifying abnormalities consistent with tuberculosis infection. By employing this crucial tool, doctors are relieved of the burden of manually assessing every X-Ray, allowing them to focus more on treatment after a successful diagnosis. Furthermore, this approach reduces the number of undiagnosed cases due to limited health care staff availability.
In the battle against tuberculosis, the Stop TB Partnership is making significant strides with innovative and community-focused initiatives. By increasing testing accessibility through XPert machines and raising awareness through child-friendly comics, the organization is empowering Moldova’s communities to combat the disease. Additionally, the use of AI technology in TB diagnosis streamlines the process and enables health care professionals to focus on providing timely treatment. These efforts offer hope for a future of reduced TB impact in developing countries like Moldova.
– Annabel Kartal-Allen