In 2012, 8.6 million people around the world fell ill with Tuberculosis- or TB as it is commonly called. The incidence rate of TB in Iran is 14.43 out of 100,000 persons. The provinces hardest-hit are Sistan and Baluchestan, Golestan, Hormozgan, North Khorasan, South Khorasan, Khorasan Razavi, and Khuzestan. The incidence of TB in these seven provinces is at least double of national average.
Through UNDP, the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran has mobilized resources from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to address implementation gaps in the national TB control programme. The partnership has contributed to enhanced case detection and treatment infrastructure and mechanisms as well as better public awareness.
The initiative has provided, among other things, for establishment of 8 Drug Susceptibility Test (DST) Laboratories in provinces. The Ahwaz DST Lab was inaugurated on 31 December.
DST helps identify whether a person has developed resistance to one or more of the antibiotics used against TB.
For the first time in the country the project has also been able to import a consignment of four GeneXpert machines that are expected to help strengthen the capacities for detecting drug resistant TB cases.
Dr. Eidani, Chancellor of Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences emphasized on the value of services which DST laboratory will provide. He pointed out that using antibiogram method in DST lab will strengthen the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TB cases. DST laboratory is also equipped with a specialized training section to provide training courses for laboratory experts of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. The training facilities are open to the neighboring provinces and countries.
Also speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Dr. M. Alavi, Health Deputy at Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences expressed his appreciation to the UNDP and Global Fund partnership. Dr. Alavi mentioned that the province was suffering from high burden of TB disease as well as an increase in the rate of Multi Drug Resistant TB cases due to cross border movement of people and highlighted the importance of DST lab in the province for early diagnosis and treatment.
In his speech, Mr. B. Murali, The Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP congratulated the Center for Disease Control of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education as well as Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences for this great achievement. He said “The TB project has contributed to the implementation of the National Strategic Plan through awareness raising for TB prevention; strengthening lab infrastructure; efficient and speedy case finding; improved treatment practices; and provision of technical training for health system staff.” He added “The project has established seven DST labs – like the one just being inaugurated – in seven sub-national centres as well as 40 Culture labs and 66 Direct Smear Microscopy labs across the provinces.”
Since 2008, the Government of I.R. of Iran assisted by UNDP has mounted a strong effort to fight back against TB disease. The project has significantly contributed to the country’s health system capacities in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TB as well as enhancing the health infrastructure of the mentioned seven provinces most hard-hit by the disease.