Tuberculosis, or TB, is one of Haiti’s greatest infectious causes of mortality in both youth and adults and has been termed a priority country by the Pan American Health Organization for TB control. TB is a highly contagious disease that may be transmitted from person to person via small droplets produced by coughing. Inhalation of these droplets often cause the disease to appear. Unfortunately, as much as 40% of these cases go undiagnosed and the WHO fears that there is an increase in TB drug resistance. In 2010, a massive earthquake devastated the region and it lost much of its health infrastructure. People were stay in close-knit tent camps that cause an increase in the risk and infection of tuberculosis among the population. The delay in care created an increase in the spread of the disease.
Tuberculosis in a public health problem of global magnitude. A particular social stigma that infected individuals “don’t want to be labeled” severely handicaps efforts to control the disease. As described by a local, “When a Haitian gets sick, he is afraid to disclose it. He doesn’t want others to find out.” This is not only a social stigma, but it may be a cultural stigma if it is shameful to be infected with TB. The stigma is also economic because many Haitians with the disease feel labelled as poor.
In response to this endemic disease among Haitians, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) worked with other foundations to strengthen laboratories and laboratory practices with new microscopes and training for technicians. The also built a new TB laboratory in 2011 and established TB culture and drug susceptibility testing at the laboratory.
As for continuing research on this subject, only one name pops to the top. Dr. Paul Farmer is one of the leading medical anthropologists working on the issue of tuberculosis in Haiti. His approach to solving this problem is to research implementation methods and the innovation of care delivery models. Farmer states that operations research, using observational methods, are often the most appropriate means in such impoverished settings. He takes all cultural, social, political, and economic factors into account when determining how best to move forward and move treatment plans forward with limited resources.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “DTBE in Haiti.” Accessed August 4, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/globaltb/haiti.htm
IRIN. “HAITI: Combating TB in Port-au-Prince’s tent cities.” Accessed August 4, 2014. http://www.irinnews.org/report/91113/haiti-combating-tb-in-port-au-prince-s-tent-cities
The Crudem Foundation. “Tuberculosis in Haiti.” Accessed August 4, 2014. http://crudem.org/tuberculosis-in-haiti/
University of South Florida College of Public Health. “Stigma and Tuberculosis among Haitian Populations.” Accessed August 4, 2014. http://health.usf.edu/publichealth/cophinternational/pdf/Haiti-Stigma%20and%20Tuberculosis%20among%20Haitian%20Populations.pdf