- Our Work
- Sponsor a Child
- Ways to give
- Get Involved
- About Us
- Our Partners
In the Philippines, tuberculosis (TB) claims 75 lives everyday. Confronted by stigma and resigned to living fearfully with TB, many people do not seek the treatment they need. As part of the global campaign against TB, World Vision is helping communities in the Philippines respond through a network of local volunteers dedicated to supporting those affected by the disease.
Among the volunteers is Cedes, a mother of four living in Iloilo City, who has had more experience than most in responding to TB. As a volunteer in one of the 341 taskforces in the country, Cedes juggles her time taking care of her family and helping people in her village prevent the spread of TB.
Before the taskforce started working in her community, Cedes says that people didn’t have the information they need to protect themselves from the disease. Nor did they know that TB can be cured.
“People would rather suffer in shame and silence than seek medical attention,” shares Cedes. As a task force member, she has the tough job of convincing people with symptoms of TB to seek diagnosis and access free treatment from local health services.
Cedes knows too well what it’s like to be in their shoes. Her experience of having a family member sick with TB has given Cedes a stronger resolve to help her community come to terms with TB.
No stranger to stigma
Cedes recalls grappling with stigma over her own son’s illness.
For days, she had noticed the tell-tale signs. Her son, fifteen-year-old William, was losing weight and coughing in fits. A sputum test confirmed he had TB. “I was devastated. I knew how his friends would react once word got out. I was worried,” says Cedes.
William agreed to undergo treatment but decided to quit school. “He couldn’t stand the way his friends had been treating him since word got out that he had TB. I explained to him that within two weeks of treatment, he would no longer be contagious and could go back to school afterwards, but he refused,” Cedes shares.
Her younger son, John Gabriel, 12, who shares a room with William, also tested positive for TB in children, commonly known as “primary complex”.
“I really felt bad, convinced that I had failed to do my duty as a mother and a member of the task force. I couldn’t bring myself to educate my neighbors about TB and its preventions because I hadn’t been able to prevent my son from contracting the illness,” says Cedes.
Cedes began to doubt her credibility as a health worker. But with the encouragement of her husband and co-workers, she persevered with her work.
“They reminded me that I didn’t fail them at all and, in fact, I protected the rest of my family because I was able to detect the symptoms early on,” she says.
For the ensuing six months, Cedes became a treatment partner for her sons. She supervised their daily dose of medication and vitamins, and made sure that they got a proper diet and rest until they fully recovered.
Taskforce volunteers partner with patients undergoing treatment to support them in completing the full course of medication required to clear the disease.
Eventually, William felt confident enough to return to school. “With my sons’ illness, I was able to convince more people that anybody can get TB, but it is curable so they need not cover in embarrassment but should seek treatment,” Cedes says.
With the support of her family, Cedes continued to work with the task force with renewed vigor. The taskforce intensified their awareness-raising campaigns in the community. Using colorful posters and brochures, they took to the streets, visited homes, conducted health education in schools, held community meetings and worked alongside village officials to spread the word about TB.
Cedes describes their progress as slow but steady. Since 2007, they have convinced more than one hundred people to come forward for testing. Twenty-three adults were found positive, and 22 children were diagnosed with primary complex.
While Cedes and her group have accomplished much, they have no intention of slowing down. Plans are now underway to engage children in their campaigns. Their health education in schools has inspired children to form their own junior taskforce.
“I am happy with what we have accomplished so far. The biggest reward is seeing the change of attitude among the people. Before, the community dreaded TB, we were afraid of the disease, but now, they can no longer ignore it. Our campaign posters are everywhere. The task force uses every possible occasion to talk about the disease,” Cedes says with a satisfied smile.
World Vision’s Social Mobilization on TB project has mobilized more than 5,100 volunteers in 13 cities and 4 provinces throughout the Philippines. Their work entails raising awareness, referring those with TB symptoms for diagnosis and acting as treatment partners to TB patients, and advocate for local partners' support to TB control.
The project works with the local health authorities to promote the Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course (DOTS) strategy. The DOTS approach combines diagnosis with a secure supply of quality anti-TB drugs and supervised treatment and assessment of patients by community members. To date, TB Task Forces across the country have referred 34,807 people showing TB signs and symptoms.
blog comments powered by Disqus