Dewi Wulan smiled radiantly as she pulled off her surgical mask. All the patients at Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital’s TB clinic were wearing them, but she is now officially no longer contagious with TB, and therefore the mask was no longer required.
I met Dewi, 29, at Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital, a busy urban hospital in Bandung, Indonesia, which sees 3000 patients a day. One of their priorities is treating Tuberculosis (TB), a highly infectious disease that is all too common in Indonesia, which has the unfortunate ranking as the country with the ninth most TB cases in the world.
In the past few years, a new tool, GeneXpert, has been introduced that reduces diagnosis time from six weeks to two hoursIf TB isn’t accurately diagnosed and treated promptly and effectively, resistance to TB drugs can develop. This “multi-drug resistant” TB is extremely difficult to cure and in the best case requires almost two years of treatment. Key to treating TB quickly is diagnosing the disease. In many parts of the world, hospitals send samples to a far-away lab where they are examined under a standard microscope–a process that hasn’t changed in over a hundred years. It often takes weeks to tell a patient that she has TB, during which time she has potentially been infecting her family and neighbors.
In the past few years, a new tool, GeneXpert, has been introduced that reduces diagnosis time from six weeks to two hours, allowing patients to both begin receiving medicine immediately and to know if their disease is already resistant to one of the most common drugs used to treat TB. While this tool is still relatively rare, Dr. Hasan Sadkin Hospital recently received their first GeneXpert machine through funding from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Instead of being a patient at the clinic, Dewi will now be a community health worker, helping people in her neighborhood who are at-risk of TB.I visited Dr. Hasan Sadikin Hospital with colleagues from the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria and Tahir, a prominent Indonesian businessman who is the largest individual private donor to the Global Fund. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match Tahir’s funding and together these contributions will support the majority of the Fund’s TB treatment programs in Indonesia.
Instead of being a patient at the clinic, Dewi will now be a community health worker so she can work with people in her neighborhood who are at-risk of TB. It is rewarding to meet Dewi and to know that this partnership is helping other young women and men like her give back to their communities.