US, Indonesia raise TB awareness among youth

Tuberculosis remains one of the leading causes of death in Indonesia with an average of 100,000 people dying each year from the disease.

"Every single one of those deaths is preventable," US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake said on Thursday. He was speaking during the launch of a public service announcement (PSA) initiative featuring the band Slank at the US Embassy's cultural center @America.

Blake said TB was one of the top five deadliest diseases in Indonesia and stressed that the key elements in facing the health issue were awareness, diagnostics and treatment.

The PSA was launched with an event held by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the Indonesian government, to raise awareness among youth with an aim to reduce the prevalence of the disease across the country. The event coincided with the celebration of World Tuberculosis Day, which falls on March 24 every year.

In the event themed "TOSS TB", an acronym for Temukan TB Obati Sampai Sembuh (Diagnose TB and Treat until Cured), health experts were invited to discuss how to recognize TB symptoms and what measures needed to be taken to cure the illness.

High school students from around Jakarta attended the event, where they also enjoyed a live performance from legendary pop rock band Slank.

The US is one of the largest donors in Indonesia's fight against tuberculosis. Through USAID, the US works in close partnership with the Health Ministry as well as NGOs and the private sector, including Indonesia's biggest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Johnson and Johnson.

Health Ministry official Asik, who heads the TB control division, said TB diagnosis and treatment services were provided free of charge at community health centers (Puskesmas).

TB is caused by bacteria and treatment includes a six-month long course of antimicrobial drugs, he said.

Asik emphasized the importance of discipline in continuing the lengthy course of treatment until its completion. This was important for patients to be free of the disease, he said, adding that incomplete treatment could lead to further complications and even drug resistance.

Asik said it was important to maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly and have regular health check-ups to help prevent the disease. He said that if people suffered from a cough for over two weeks, it was crucial to seek a diagnosis from a doctor because it was one of the most obvious indicators of the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2014, one million Indonesians contracted TB. Meanwhile, neighboring countries Vietnam and Thailand detected 130,000 and 120,000 cases respectively.

The WHO Global Tuberculosis Report released last year showed that Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific accounted for 58 percent of new cases globally.

Around 9.6 million cases were detected worldwide in 2014, with around 480,000 being multidrug-resistant TB.

Tuberculosis affects the lungs and is spread in the same way as influenza, by coughing, sneezing or saliva. Symptoms include persistent coughing with sputum that sometimes include traces of blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.

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Source: Jakrta

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