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It takes more than medication

Barriers to health

Though medication exists that can cure TB and prevent its onward transmission, each year over 10 million people develop TB and nearly two million people die from the disease. This is due to social and economic barriers that prevent or delay affected people from accessing health services. Indeed, the majority of TB deaths worldwide are among the three million people annually who never reach effective healthcare.

People may not seek treatment because they simply do not know about tuberculosis or recognise their symptoms as TB, whilst others fear the stigma that still surrounds the disease. Poverty and chaotic lifestyles can also make it difficult for people to prioritise their health over other demands on their time and resources – even when TB services are free. Whilst mistrust of government health services or a lack of understanding of healthcare rights can deter people from seeking help, or lead them to traditional healers or poorly qualified practitioners.

Even when people are able to overcome personal barriers to accessing help for their symptoms, the quality of the health systems they encounter varies widely throughout the world. Inadequate funding, too few qualified healthcare professionals, poor infrastructure and lack of access to quality drugs and diagnostics introduce further diagnostic delays and limit the success of treatment.

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