Karachi- During a seminar held to address the grave matter of Tuberculosis (TB) spread, the Executive Director Bridge Consultants Foundation, Dr Sharaf Ali Shah stated that about half a million new TB infections occur annually in Pakistan, out of which approximately 1/3rd of incidents remain unregistered or undiagnosed, resulting in a pool of new cases that further spread the disease within the community.
Moreover, Dr Sharaf Ali added that Pakistan can achieve its global target to eliminate TB from within our society by 2030, only if the unreportted TB cases are found and given proper treatment.
It was revealed that transgender females and male sex workers (MSWs) are marginalized populations, who under their unfortunate circumstances remain poor, malnourished and are forced to live under unhygienic overcrowded settings. Due to their lifestyle and unhealthy indulgences, they are at an increased risk of contracting HIV infection and TB.
Due to limited access to healthcare services due to stigma, discrimination and poverty, their health status is often missed by both, public and private healthcare systems.
Bridge Consultants Foundation successfully implemented a project ‘Active TB case finding amongst the Transgender and Male Sex Workers’ in Karachi, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Larkana. This program was initiated in May 2017 and went on till August 2018, with the support of TB Reach Wave-5, Stop TB Partnership and UNOPS.
Whilst discussing about the project, Dr Sharaf Ali mentioned that more than 42,000 TGs and MSWs were screened, out of which 8921 were found presumptive for TB and 7472 were tested for TB. Out of those 7472 who were tested for TB, 625 were diagnosed and registered for TB treatment at public sector BMUs. Food packages were also provided to all the patients till the completion of their treatment.
Considering the successful outcome of the previously launched projects, Stop TB Partnership and UNOPS, the National TB Control Program has approved to further facilitate the project and implement it in 08 districts of Punjab (Lahore, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, D.G. Khan and Rawalpindi) along with 14 districts of Sindh.
Furthermore, Dr Sharaf Ali thanked the team behind the project for their support in diagnosing and treating TB cases amongst Transgenders and Male Sex Workers, during the Provincial TB Control Program in Sindh.
Director Provincial TB Control Program Punjab, Dr Zarfishan Tahir appreciated the efforts of Bridge Consultants Foundation, and added that it was a unique study which would be helpful in eradicating TB from the community.
Additional Director PTP Punjab, Dr Abdul Khalique Domki whilst addressing the seminar, stated that they were fully committed to providing complete support in scale up projects to fight TB.
Vice Chancellor Dadabhoy Institute Dr Shahana Urooj, President Pakistan Infection Control Society Prof. Rafique Khanani, Director Social Welfare Department Sindh, Ms Zarfishan Arbab also actively participated in the seminar.