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We Can Heal

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Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment, Care, and Support:
Addressing Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Children

March 21, 2013

TB in a child is considered a sentinel health event as it signals recent transmission of tuberculosis (TB), which is preventable and curable. A child infected with TB is likely to progress to disease and death more rapidly than an adult. Drug-resistant forms of TB are also curable in children if they are found and treated promptly and correctly. However, because a diagnosis of drugresistant TB (DR-TB) requires isolating the TB bacteria—something that is often difficult to do in children—it is a challenge to obtain a diagnosis even in a child that is very sick. As a result, little information is available about the extent of the problem of pediatric DR-TB across the globe.

Children with DR-TB around the world require urgent attention because they point to the unrelenting spread of the TB epidemic itself: each child case is a warning signal that transmission of DR-TB strains is ongoing in that child’s community. At the same time, the experiences of children with DR-TB shed light on what needs to be done to achieve zero TB deaths from this curable disease. The Zero TB Deaths, New Infections and Suffering Campaign calls on the global TB community to reject unambitious targets and demand global action and a new global attitude in the fight against TB.

This collection of stories illustrates the problems we face with DR-TB in children. We reached out to colleagues around the world who submitted stories of children with drug-resistant TB. Our first collection in March 2012 compiled the stories of 15 children in 8 countries. Here we present an updated collection that contains the stories of 30 children from 30 countries. These stories reveal the widespread problems of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of DR-TB. They also bear witness to the courage of the children who fight for their lives against DR-TB, and to the crucial roles of family members and care providers who fight alongside them. Finally, these stories speak pointedly to the gaps in programs and policies that are failing children with TB around the world.

The voices of children like that of Sofia from Colombia—who tells us “we can heal”—should give us optimism that with more attention and better tools, we can achieve zero child deaths from all forms of TB.

Check out the interactive map and additional stories not included in this collection here!