Viet Nam gearing up to respond to MDR-TB

(June 2008, CNS)

After years of neglect a sense of consensus has finally been reached at the 39th World Conference on Lung Health in Paris over the need for effective broad-based community partnerships to strengthen health systems and improve disease-specific responses.

According to Professor Dinh Ngoc Sy, “building partnerships has contributed to strengthening health systems” in Viet Nam and there is evidence to show that disease-specific partnerships have contributed to improvements in non-HIV and tuberculosis (TB)-related care in low and middle-income countries.

Viet Nam is ranked 13 on a list of 22 high TB-burdened countries and a number of multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases have also been reported. The Institute for Social Development Studies, Bright Future Network, Health & Development Networks and other country-based partners, have helped form the National Partnership Platform Initiative for the promotion of information, dialogue and advocacy on TB and HIV issues at the country level.

“There are partnerships in action to respond effectively to MDR-TB,” Professor Dinh said, that bring together a broad range of professional organizations including governmental departments, WHO and the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.

Workshops on the management of drug-resistant TB were held in the country in 2005, leading to a program for nation-wide anti-TB drug resistance surveillance. Almost 3% of all new cases of TB were found to involve MDR-TB along with 20% of relapse cases.

These alarming MDR-TB rates reportedly led to checks on the circulation of second-line anti-TB drugs in open-market of big cities and private clinics and WHO and other groups have helped Viet Nam develop its responses to the disease.

National guidelines for responding to MDR-TB are being printed and a procurement contract for an uninterrupted supply of adequate second line anti-TB drugs for the effective treatment of MDR-TB has been signed with the International Dispensary Association, according to Professor Dinh.

But Viet Nam still faces a number of challenges as it attempts to respond to MDR-TB, including the instability of the national MDR-TB task force and delays to the disbursement of anti-TB funds.

The role of communities in strengthening health responses also needs to be addressed and supported by groups working on TB in the country, including home-based care providers, support groups for people living with or affected by the disease as well as faith-based groups.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS

June 2008