DOTS ACHIEVES ENCOURAGING RESULTS FOR

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SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY

Noumea, New Caledonia

NEWS RELEASE July 22, 1999

CONTROL OF TUBERCULOSIS IN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS

After only a year and a half, a new program set up to control tuberculosis (TB), has already achieved a cure rate in Kiribati above the World Health Organization (WHO) cut-off point of 85 percent.

WHO declared TB a global emergency in 1993, when the number of infected people rose as social factors, including the HIV epidemic, rendered more people susceptible to the disease.

The strategy WHO recommended as the best means of controlling TB is called "DOTS," short for "Directly Observed Treatment Short Course."

In order for DOTS to be successful, a country must be fully committed.

"Political commitment is the most important element for implementing DOTS," says Janet O'Connor, who runs the program. "This means providing adequate resources. Good monitoring, direct observation of treatment, good microscope facilities and drug supply are the other essential ingredients."

Once DOTS is in place, cure is assured. If a person diagnosed with TB takes treatment every day for six months under strict supervision by a trained health personnel, then they are considered cured. The cure rate so far shows that more than 85 percent of infectious cases can be cured.

Without DOTS in place though, the chances of TB cases even being reported are low, let alone being properly monitored.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Regional Tuberculosis Control Program was started in June 1998, and has been funded for three years by the New Zealand Government.

At present the program focuses on four countries: Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, and Tonga.

In Kiribati, so far 278 cases have been successfully treated. In Samoa, since DOTS has been fully implemented, 48 infectious cases have been successfully treated and more than 700 new infections have been prevented. Tonga and the Cook Islands are in the process of achieving 100 percent implementation of DOTS by the end of 1999.

For additional information, contact: Janet O'Connor TB Specialist Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Noumea, New Caledonia E-mail: JanetO@spc.org.nc

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