The NY Times’ Adam Ellick, who brought you the widely circulated Pakistan sex toy story, “Cracking the Whip”, reported on the presence of drug-resistant Tuberculosis in Karachi. The piece is both informative and telling of how cultural barriers can act as an impediment to tackling disease. The rise of drug-resistant TB has become a serious problem in the developing world, and health officials gathered in Beijing last month to warn against deadly drug-resistant strains of the disease.
According to the World Health Organization, “of nine million new TB cases annually, about 490,000 are multiple-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and about 40,000 are extensively drug resistant (XDR-TB) based on 2006 data.” Reuters noted, “People with XDR-TB, which has cropped up in 55 countries, have few treatment options and death rates are high.
In his report, Ellick specifically discusses MDR-TB [I believe], which he notes is “a disease of the poor,” affecting 900 people in Karachi. The strain of the disease is highly contagious, but it can be cured with antibiotics taken every day for two years. However, in Pakistan, most patients stop taking medication once they feel better. Ellick reported, “Others are embarrassed by the social stigmas of the disease and they hide it.” One woman who was interviewed said both she and her daughter have drug-resistant TB, but she refuses to allow her daughter to be checked because she’s worried word that she has TB will spread, and her daughter “already has a few marriage proposals.”
Definitely a powerful report that highlights the difficulties public health officials face when dealing with the cultural obstacles associated with the disease. Watch the story below: