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WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY - People caught in poverty trap

TB remains at epidemic levels in many countries

A Saint Paul de Chartres nun visiting a TB patient in Hue City A Saint Paul de Chartres nun visiting a TB patient in Hue City
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hue
  • Vietnam
  • March 23, 2012
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Tuberculosis is often considered a disease that no longer exerts such a powerful grip or claims as many lives as before. But while it has declined in more developed parts of the world, it remains at epidemic levels in others.

World TB Day on March 24 highlights the plight of the many people whose risk of TB is aggravated by economic conditions.

Despite a racking cough and the need for constant medication, Paul Nguyen Giang carries 500 kilograms of cassava powder every morning by tricycle. He earns 100,000 dong (US$5) a day for that and when the day’s work is done, he does housework for extra money.

“The TB is affecting me again because the heavy work is so exhausting,” he says.

“I had treatment for it in January and the doctors advised me to have adequate food and a good rest for at least for three months until I recovered. But I have to work to support my family.”

Giang lives with his wife and two children in a small, one-room flat in Hue. His wife earns 1,500,000 dong (US$75) a month as a nursemaid.

“I was infected with TB from my mother," he says. “She died of it in 1999. Now I’m sad to say my daughter has contracted the disease from me.”

Pham Thi Van has a similar problem. Her husband died of TB in 2010 and she has been undergoing medical treatment for the past eight months which, fortunately, she receives free of charge.

“But I can’t rest while I’m getting the treatment because I have to work to bring up my two children,” she says. She works as a mussel diver from 1 to 6 a.m, earning 30,000 to 50,000 dong a day.

Ho Thi Hong, another TB patient, says there are around 150 fellow sufferers in her neighborhood. Most of them were infected by the harmful dust and smoke that comes from charcoal burning, yet it is charcoal burning that provides them with a living.

“They only receive free medicine from the local state-run dispensary when the disease worsens and they are too weak to work,” she says.

Doctor Nguyen Cuong, a TB expert at Hue’s state-run General Hospital, confirms that “numbers are on the rise. Locally, we recorded 2,150 patients in 2010 and 2,500 in 2011. The disease spreads among people who live in poverty and work in a polluted environment.

“TB can be cured within eight months but if patients fail to maintain their physical health, it will strike them again.”

Related Reports:

State launches campaign against TB


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