Image: The TB PALS team, front row (left to right): Allan (lead Counsellor), Emmanuel, Lucy, and Ethel. Back row (left to right) Donald and George.
A new support team for tuberculosis (TB) patients on Daru Island in Western Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG) aims to improve the wellbeing of people undergoing treatment.
Five peer counsellors have been funded to offer education and psychosocial support to patients with TB as they move through their 20-month treatment journey.
The team is funded through an Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) grant with DFAT, under the current Burnet RID-TB program. This program aims to mitigate the drug-resistant TB epidemic in Western Province PNG, centred on Daru Island.
Burnet’s International Health and Development Specialist Tope Adepoyibi, said treatment for TB required patients to visit a health facility every day for almost two years. They received a daily injection and oral medications for nine months, followed by just daily oral medications.
“It’s quite a tall order. People have problems in their lives that can stop them coming – they might need to go and fish, or they don’t have enough money for food, or they get sick of it, or the side effects get to them,” she said.
“In order to keep them in care, this program focuses on emotional and psychosocial support; help with side effects, and access to doctors and nurses.”
The TB peer counsellors – three male and two female - are led by an experienced trained counsellor, Allan Kuma who emphasises the importance of family support for TB patients.
“Family support for TB patients is an important part of their care,“ he said.
“The team plans to visit all the families of TB patients for education and counselling.”
The World Health Organization says TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, although most TB is curable if treated. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals.