Eliminating TB, One Van at a Time

Posted on Feb 8, 2019

Dr. Courtney Yuen performs the ribbon cutting for one of the TB-Mobile vans.
Dr. Courtney Yuen performs the ribbon cutting for one of the TB-Mobile vans. Photo by Josue Quesnay Gomez / PIH

The imminent launch of two vans equipped with state-of-the-art technology to test for tuberculosis (TB) and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) marks a major milestone for PIH’s and Peru’s fight against TB, the leading infectious killer of adults in the world. Within coming weeks, these trucks will enable PIH to carry out a new screening program called TB Móvil, which will search for, diagnose, and refer TB and MDR-TB cases in the three northernmost districts of Peru’s capital, Lima.

TB Móvil is one of various strategies that comprise a new ‘TB Elimination’ campaign, led by a coalition of PIH and partner organizations in northern Lima, which aims to rapidly drive down TB rates. It is the first time PIH is launching such a campaign. The TB Móvil component focuses on bringing testing closer to where people live, in order to search for and promptly treat TB and MDR-TB. The goal in 2019 is for the vans to drive through northern Lima and offer 100,000 people a free, fast way to be tested for the disease and gain access to treatment.

Once inside the truck, volunteers will receive a chest X-ray and—if necessary—a sputum test, the results of which are delivered in mere minutes thanks to advanced automated radiography and GeneXpert machines—two technologies that would otherwise be unavailable to poor patients. A clinician will evaluate the results and, if they test positive for TB, connect them to public health centers for a quick start to lifesaving treatment.

By actively searching for patients and bringing rapid testing, PIH, community organizations, and Peru’s Ministry of Health will ensure that more TB and MDR-TB patients receive early treatment. In so doing, we will halt the spread of the disease and save more lives, now and into the future.

PIH Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer was in Peru in December to celebrate the program’s first steps. “I marvel at how much the Peru team has accomplished over the past 23 years,” he said. “Seeing former patients who two decades were so sick and are now flourishing, and seeing nurses and health workers and lab techs still working with compassion and conviction after years—these are the best gifts we could ask for, especially in front of these new tools. This novel community screening program is a symbol of shared commitment to do more to address one of the world’s most trenchant public health dilemmas.”

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