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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 13, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Tuberculosis is a major, uncontrolled health problem in the country according to several experts on the disease who attended the National Medical symposium in Rabaul last week.

In the Port Moresby National Capital District area alone, the disease has a prevalence of some 700 per 100,000 persons. More than 2,000 new cases of TB are registered annually, of which a third are children.

Dr. Paison Dakulala and Dr. Bap Iwais of the Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae, Morobe Province said TB control program lacked focus and direction, resulting in the uncontrolled spread of the disease.

"The current situation is characterized by poor diagnosis of cases, high default rates and very poor cure rates,'' they said in a report.

"This has been attributed to a combination of lack of training of health workers at district and community levels, poor quality control of smear examinations and lack of financial resources.’’

They said at the Angau hospital, TB ranked second only to malaria as a major health problem.

"The urgency in the need for good control is further highlighted by the fact that the HIV epidemic is now here. Both HIV and TB are a deadly duo,'' the report said.

They said for that reason, the DOTS strategy, hailed by the World Health Organization as being the program of the century for TB control, was started in April 1997.

"The strategy incorporates the five components of diagnosis of high risk patients (including) sputum smear microscopy, observed recording and reporting, assessment of treatment outcomes and training and supervision and treatment with short course chemotherapy drugs and finally advocacy and funding and government commitment,'' the report said.

The doctors said the DOTS strategy goals of an 85 percent cure rate and a 70 percent rate achieved, meant there was good control.

They said the DOTS control program was showing promising results in Lae and, therefore, must be funded and expanded all over PNG.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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