Discrimination still a challenge in Vietnam's fight against tuberculosis hinh anh 1TB patients are treated at Hanoi's Central Lung Hospital. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA)
- Vietnam is facing an uphill battle to control tuberculosis (TB), with about 174,000 people in the country contracting the disease each year and 13,000 fatalities.

According to the World Health Organisation, Vietnam ranked 11th among the 30 countries with the biggest burdens of TB in the world.

Director of the Hanoi-based Central Lung Hospital Nguyen Viet Nhung said that the number of TB cases in Vietnam was falling slower than expected. 

Nhung, who is also head of the National Programme on TB prevention and Control, blamed the slight decrease of TB cases in Vietnam on ineffective control over multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis cases.

Other contributors were understaffing, low public awareness on preventing and controlling the disease, and a preference for self-treatment.

Most TB patients in Vietnam were poor with a limited understanding of the illness, which resulted in difficulties detecting and avoiding the infection source, Nhung said.

Public discrimination against TB patients made the patients tend to hide their conditions, he said.

“Hiding the disease is irresponsible to the patients themselves and to the community,” Nhung said, adding that it could cause severe consequences including more serious damage to the patients, longer treatment and higher risk of spreading the disease.

“In the fight against TB, each patient is a “soldier” who helps control and prevent the disease from spreading among the community. The community should assist them rather than discriminate against them,” Nhung said.

In the last ten years, under the National Programme on TB Prevention and Control, Vietnam has implemented a strategy with four key innovations to fight TB: awareness, technology, approach and investment.

Last year, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc approved the establishment of a national committee to combat TB with the key task of ending TB by 2030.

In the national healthcare system, there are 51 hospitals specialising in TB treatment across the country. Of them, 48 provincial-level hospitals have mastered techniques recommended by the WHO. 

Nhung said the TB prevention and control network had reached grassroots levels in wards, hamlets and villages to deliver early detection and treatment.

Groups that are vulnerable to TB like prisoners, those with diabetes, HIV or drug addicts had been involved in a pilot programme for early intervention.

Vietnam had been strengthening research and improving its legal framework to realise its goal of ending TB.

At a meeting last week ahead of World TB Day that falls on March 24, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam asked the Ministry of Health and agencies to develop plans to provide sufficient funding for TB prevention and control to reach the 2030 target.

The Deputy PM also asked for further communication to improve public understanding of the disease.

“TB is a communicable disease but we don’t need to fear it. TB is no longer uncurable because now, we have strengthened our financial ability and modern technology to test and treat it,” he said./.