Before and after: The transformation of a TB clinic

Anne Marson of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria catalogs stories of inspiration, strength and hope from a recent trip to Peru.

BeforeAfter_TB
On a plot of land about the size of a football field sit two yellow-and-white structures. The small building (pictured at top) is a tuberculosis “clinic” responsible for serving the 2 million people who live in Huaycán, a township of Lima that has the second-highest TB prevalence rate in Peru.

A new TB Excellence Center (pictured at bottom), financed in large part by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, sits just yards away. The center is already treating nearly 50 patients and is scheduled to open in full soon, providing treatment and care with modern equipment and proper ventilation.

Especially important are the center’s facilities for those infected with multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extremely drug-resistant (XDR) strains of TB. Without rooms available for quarantine, doctors and nurses in Huaycán have had no choice but to send the most highly contagious back into the community, where overcrowded housing increases the risk of patients’ passing TB along to their families and neighbors.

The recent 2011 report on TB control from the World Health Organization shows that, for the first time in two decades, the number of new cases of TB is dropping, with particular progress made in Latin America. These strides are thanks in large part to the many TB Excellence Centers supported by the Global Fund and others. But resistant strains in particular present a unique threat -– one that will only heighten if the world becomes complacent about anti-TB efforts.

The new building in Huaycán offers more than just increased capacity and adequate technology to guard against the transmission of MDR and XDR-TB -– it offers a dignified space where patients can be treated as individuals. “Norms say we should assign a number,” says nurse Victoria Zegarra. “We believe people aren’t numbers, so we keep their names on file. People don’t like to say that they are ‘Patient 18.’”

The dedicated nurses can enjoy their share of dignity, as well. “This is like a palace for us,” Victoria says of the new facility. “It makes us proud to come to work.”