editorial

TB medicine alarm

28.11.2011 | kyivweekly.com.ua

Epidemic rages while politicians dither

Ukraine faces epidemic levels of tuberculosis not seen in a 100 years. The regions, especially those with high rates in the south, have a critical shortage of tuberculosis medications, declared a November 18 conference on TB in Kyiv. Most report a 1-2 month supply. This should sound alarm bells in Kyiv as it already has in Europe and at the World Health Organization. But it sounds like Kyiv is not listening. Tuberculosis - particularly this new multi-strain hard to eradicate form - has made a strong comeback in Ukraine, starting after independence, due to the economic crisis and depressed social conditions. By 1995 Ukraine declared it had a TB epidemic. With weakened immune systems, little money for healthy diets and medications, poor sanitation, and the highest rates of HIV/AIDS transmission in Europe, conditions were ripe for TB´s spread among the most destitute. While the WHO and European health agencies set up targeted programs, the Ukrainian authorities have done little beyond lip service. It is unacceptable and unfathomable that a country with such resources has had a raging epidemic for the past 16 years with little will from the authorities to do anything about it. The latest issue is the low levels of medications. Various Funds and NGOs run programs to supply medications to those who cannot afford them, but who can easily spread TB. Regional health authorities bear the burden of this epidemic. They are responsible for their own healthcare monies - always significantly smaller than Kyiv´s. They simply do not have the funds to fight an epidemic. While politicians have declared their readiness to assist, some conference members noted various health bodies lack the motivation to adopt international standards for diagnosis and treatment - something that would also cost money. The country´s health crisis and TB epidemic are the direct result of inaction and ineptitude of multiple governments on social and health policies over the last 16 years. TB is a horrible illness, leading to a slow horrible death. A two-decade epidemic is a political disgrace. It is time for the politicians to stop their infighting and abuse of power and gather the courage to direct some of their millions from energy, steel and sunflower sales to eradicate TB and other epidemics from Ukraine.

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