World TB Day calls for celebration of the past, hope for the future
The Philippine Coalition Against Tuberculosis (PhilCAT) in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH) and the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) spearheaded this year’s celebration of the World TB Day at the Plaza Mayor, UST Grounds in España, Manila last March 24.
Thousands of stakeholders joined in the festivities, ranging from government officials, public and private healthcare providers, community workers, researchers, members of civil society, representatives from funding agencies to TB survivors and their families.
“Today, we celebrate the humanity’s struggle and victory against Tuberculosis. Across the globe, there is united front to make tuberculosis a history, a thing of the past by working hand in hand through proactive, collaborative efforts with different sectors, from government to private institutions and individuals” According to keynote speaker Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, Director of National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDPC) of the DOH.
This year’s local theme of “STOP TB: Kaya Mo. Kaya Ko” is the continuation of the two-year campaign initiated in 2008 to empower individuals who have taken part in the fight against TB.
The World TB Day celebration was kicked-off by a 10-kilometer fun run from the Inner Wheel Club of Quezon City to the UST grounds, led by Ms. Joy Rojas, who survived TB and made history by becoming the first Filipina to run across the Philippines. Now, she’s attempting to make another record by becoming the 1st Filipina to run across the United States, from California to New York. For most TB patients, Ms. Rojas is an epitome of renewed hope - that they too can reach the finish line of recovery.
The celebration at the UST grounds was solemnized by the Holy Mass, celebrated by Rev. Fr. Winston F. Cabading, O.P. who, in his homily relayed a message of hope for everyone – that despite the hardships they all face in taking care of the sick, they shouldn’t give up because the Healing God is there to help them.
A jovial parade of costumes followed suit, participated in by 51 PhilCAT member groups and local government units through the Centers for Health Development. Most of these organizations provided their most creative and appealing chants on their organization, the DOTS strategy and the deadly TB disease. In the end, three groups appeared victorious as the Quezon City Health Department bagged the Championship for the Best in Costume Parade, followed by Natrapharm at 2nd place, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) at 3rd place.
Fr. Cabading, speaking on behalf of UST Rector, Rev. Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa emphasized that the struggle to remain healthy is not an easy task. Stressing on this year’s theme, he expressed confidence that collective efforts could win over this battle against TB.
PhilCAT National Chair Dr. Elizabeth V. Cadena in her opening message explained the devastating realities of tuberculosis and the synergistic efforts of various stakeholders to mitigate the problem. She also imparted the significance of this year’s World TB Day to her as National Chair of PhilCAT; Representative of Philippine Tuberculosis Society, Inc. (PTSI) and Medical Director of Quezon Institute; and a former medical student of UST, where the celebration was unfolding. Quoting PhilCAT’s immediate Past Chair, Dr. Imelda D. Quelapio, Dr. Cadena reiterated that this year’s theme is more than a slogan. “It is a bold call for all sectors of the society to join hands in eradicating this disease. It is boldness that we must exercise to realize a world free of tuberculosis. Until TB is controlled, World TB Day won’t be a celebration. But a valuable opportunity, a significant occasion to announce to the rest of the world about the devastation that TB can do and how it can be stopped”. Finally, she urged everyone to exemplify the theme of “I am stopping TB”, but with a twist, “Now is the Time!”
As what both TB survivors, Luz Hida and Antia Silverio shared during their testimonies, the road to recovery from TB is definitely a gruesome process, filled with setbacks in the forms of complications and adverse reactions to TB medications, among others. Yet through persistence in working with DOTS providers, they prevailed over the disease. Both lauded the untiring efforts and patience of their healthcare providers, believing that without them, they wouldn’t have been victorious.
Dr. Lorraine Sanchez, who gave Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim’s message on his behalf, committed that health is indeed a priority of the city government. She thanked all partners in the TB program, specifically PhilCAT; and posited that the common goal of stopping TB is the thread that inspires everyone to work as a team. Despite the wealth of support received from the civil society and the private sector, she believed that there is still much to be done in the face of recent threats -- one of them is the awareness campaign, which needs to be intensified. The annual commemoration of World TB Day, although just a beginning, is a giant leap towards realizing our common vision of a TB-free Philippines.
According to World Health Organizations’ Representative to the Philippines, Dr. Soe Nyunt-U, with the significant progress in the implementation of the national TB program, the country is most likely to reach its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for TB Control, thereby reducing TB prevalence by half by year 2015. He suggested that to move even closer to these goals, a strong functioning health system is necessary; and he believed that DOH’s Fourmula 1 has all the elements necessary for success. Meanwhile, he expressed that WHO in its capacity, will continue to support the program however, he also stressed that the success still lies within us.
Dr. Oliveros in her keynote speech expressed DOH’s gratitude to all its partners, specifying their unique and most valuable contributions to the National TB program. Due to their unwavering support, the recent TB prevalence survey was depicting a more positive picture of decreasing trend in mortality rate.
She forewarned everyone however, against recent challenges (i.e. existence of multi-drug resistant TB) that threaten our hard-earned efforts. Thus, this World TB Day, she enjoined all partners to sustain their efforts and act on these challenges. She also appealed to build on the gains previously achieved by the NTP by ensuring that TB treatment is free, conditions of health workers are improved through capacity building, and high quality of care is provided to TB patients. She appealed for everyone to do their best beyond what is expected of them and rise above the recent challenges.
Later in the program, the results of the short film festival on TB was announced, with De la Salle Health Institute securing the championship for their “STOP TB: Kapit kamay” entry, again the De la Salle Health Institute at 2nd place for their “MTB Naging Pabaya” entry, and the UP-PGH Study Group at 3rd place for their “Ang TB ay labanan” entry.
Before the World TB Day festivities was finally capped off with a press conference with the local media, the DOH officials together with representatives from various sectors participated in the ceremonial release of balloons to symbolically celebrate NTP’s remarkable hitting of 90% treatment success rate and 75% case detection rate.
Annually celebrated every March 24, World TB Day commemorates the discovery of the TB bacillus by Dr. Robert Koch in 1882 which eventually paved the way to the diagnosis and cure of this deadly disease.
Kindly click the PHOTO GALLERY section for the WTBD 2009 photos.