Aside from working towards well-being of children, families, and communities, World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT) also carries out Stop TB and AIDS through RRTTR (Reach-Recruit-Test-Treat-Retain) or STAR, financially supported by the Global Fund, to promote good health and to control, prevent, and battle Tuberculosis (TB) and AIDS, the fatal diseases which greatly impact children, families, and communities.
The STAR project, implemented by WVFT, prioritises migrants as the main target group, which includes Myanmar, Cambodian, Lao, and stateless people, who are highly vulnerable to TB and AIDS. The project works in Bangkok and other key provinces highly populated by migrant communities, such as Tak, Pathum Thani, Ranong, and Phuket. The implementation encompasses disease vigilance and infection control, which urge the migrants to receive TB and HIV/AIDS screening test and walk the infected through the treatment process, to prevent further outbreak within the community. In addition, public awareness raising and knowledge enhancement are promoted among the migrants, which encourage them to maintain good health, watch for symptoms which may indicate TB and HIV afflicting thems, or their family and other community members, and lead the at-risk group to the screening and treatment processes.
The infected migrants who are underprivileged and not entitled to any health insurance are financially supported by WVFT to receive diagnosis, treatment, supervised medicine intake, and proper follow-up until complete recovery, which takes from 6 up to 8 months. If any migrant patients wish or are required to return to their countries of origin in the middle of their treatment programme, WVFT will coordinate with the hospital in their home countries to facilitate the referral process to ensure their continued treatment until total recovery.
“Tuberculosis and AIDS remain Thailand’s major health threats. Their high prevalence is still a significant concern, especially among the migrants. We cannot deny that these populations are rising in Thailand, most of who do not have access to health services due to the lack of knowledge and insurance coverage. According to the WVFT’s STAR project implementation in previous 3 years (2015 – 2017), 61,320 people from migrant populations and impoverished communities received TB screening; 341 TB-infected cases were found among them. The project led all cases to enter the treatment process and receive continued medication. The treatment success rate was at 87 per cent. In addition, the STAR project promoted knowledge about TB and HIV/AIDS, self-health care, and transmission vigilance among migrant groups. More than 100,000 volunteers were recruited to join the ministry. Over 6,000 people from risk groups received HIV screening; 124 of them were found positive. Due to many factors, WVFT could urge only 44 per cent of these cases to receive the antiretroviral therapy. The TB and AIDS curbing efforts have been collaborated with local public health units, civil sector network, and migrant network. Today WVFT has been continuously funded by the Global Fund to carry out the STAR project until 2020 in 5 provinces, namely, Chiang Rai, Tak, Bangkok, Ranong, and Phuket. In 2018, among the 31,616 suspected migrants who received TB screening test, 272 cases were found infected. This number also included referral cases from the hospital. All of them have received continuous therapy.” Ms Chintana Thamsuwan, Global Fund Grant Department Manager, WVFT’s overseer and driver of the STAR project, shared about the implementation.
Ms Chintana added about the TB situation in Bangkok: “As many as 106 new migrant cases have been found, 104 cases in 2018 and 52 cases in 2019. WVFT has introduced the patients to enter the process which offers them the right health care, directly observed treatment, and medical follow-up, and provided knowledge about how to prevent the transmission to their family and community members. Regarding the treatment results of the total infected migrants found in Bangkok, so far 25 per cent, or 37 persons, have already been cured.”
Although TB and AIDS remain Thailand’s significant problems, proper diagnosis and early entry to appropriate treatment programme, with good awareness of transmission control management, make possible disease prevention and patients’ co-existence with other people. Most importantly, one must have sufficient knowledge and understanding about the disease and self-protection. “Talking about TB, the easiest way to protect ourselves and others is wearing sanitary masks when we cough or sneeze to prevent droplet transmission to others. The masks can also protect us when exposed to airborne particles expelled from other people which may contain contagious diseases. Although the treatment is essential, disease prevention is not less crucial, which may be done by maintaining good health and keeping alert for self-protection from risks to infections,” Ms Chintana ended.