Treating TB in Timor-Leste

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Press Release: Citizen News Service (CNS)

Steady progress made towards treating TB in Timor-Leste

Dili: A greater number of new positive Tuberculosis (TB) cases are being detected now in Timor-Leste compared to nine years ago. Of these new cases, about 85% are being successfully treated. Timor Leste’s TB burden was first recorded in 1995 and averaged 707 cases per 100,000 of its population. Today it stands at 378 cases per 100,000 of its population.

"Timor-Leste is on track to meeting the MDG goal of halving the number of TB cases in the country by 2015. However this disease still posses a heavy burden in our country," says Dr Nelson Martins, Minister of Health.

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

"I particularly want to stress the importance of our Timorese doctors who have returned from Cuba to be sensitized to the TB programme’s needs and receive training on standard diagnostic and treatment protocol of the National TB Control Programme (NTP)," stressed Dr Martins, who was the founding manager of the NTP when the proagmme was established in 2000 by Caritas.

The country’s National TB Control Programme next five year strategy is an ambitious one. From now till 2015, it aims to further improve access to TB diagnostic services with a focus on reaching the marginalized and vulnerable groups and strengthen the recording and reporting of data as part of its immediate action.

The National TB Control Programme is integrated within the Ministry of Health. It receives funding from the Global Fund and technical support from the World Health Organization. Various partners including South Australia Pathology, the Catholic Clinic network supported by CARITAS, Clinic Café Timor and the Bairo Pite Clinic in the capital Dili are integral in the success of the programme to date.

"The firm and dedicated support from both our national and international partners have been significant in the control of TB in Timor-Leste. I’m extremely grateful for this and look forward to our continued partnership," stressed Dr Martins at the launch of the country's Stop TB Strategy for 2011-2015. (CNS)

Indonesia Will ‘Split Down the Middle’ If We Name Suharto a Hero: Historian
Dessy Sagita | October 17, 2010

Jakarta. Naming former President Suharto a national hero would spark controversy across the country, as the jury is still out on his role as Indonesia’s “Father of Development,” a noted historian said on Sunday.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has drawn up a list of 10 candidates to join the ranks of the country’s national heroes. The list includes former presidents Suharto and Abdurrahman Wahid, as well as Ali Sadikin, the late Jakarta governor.

The Council on Titles, Decorations and Honors, which oversees the process for proposing national heroes, will now verify the candidates before their names are proposed to the president for final approval.

“The timing is just not right. If we make Suharto a national hero, a lot people will be offended and there will be a lot of controversy,” said Asvi Warman Adam, a historian from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

Suharto’s supporters believe that the former president was person most responsible for the country’s impressive economic growth and stability during his 30-year rule, Asvi said, while his critics maintain that Suharto and his cronies siphoned off the country’s wealth to enrich themselves while overseeing a host of human rights violations.

“Naming Suharto a national hero would split Indonesia down the middle and trigger an unnecessary fight between his supporters and opponents,” he said.

Since a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has been set up to look into rights abuses during Suharto’s rule has not yet issued any findings on the former president’s alleged involvement, Asvi said, it would be best to put off any decisions on naming him a national hero.

“The commission has not started its work. This is not the best time to name Suharto as one of the country’s heroes,” he said. He added that the country’s founding president, Sukarno, was dead for 16 years before being declared a national hero.

Suharto, also known as the “Smiling General,” died after a long illness in January 2008. He was brought down from power in 1998 by massive student-led protests after ruling the country for 32 years, during which time Indonesia was celebrated for its economic development. But dissent was muffled during his reign and many people disappeared when his family’s wealth and iron-fisted rule was questioned.

“People who have been kidnapped or those who had family members murdered during Suharto’s era — can you imagine how they would feel about this proposal to name him a national hero?” Asvi said.

With more questions being asked about the proposal, the Ministry of Social Affairs has said the idea came from the public, not from the ministry.

Earthquake shakes Tonga and East Timor

A 6.1 MAGNITUDE earthquake struck 135 kilometers north of East Timor this morning after Tonga was also rocked by a moderate tremor.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported no immediate reports of damage after the quake struck at 12:44am local time at a depth of 20.6 kilometres.

East Timor sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the meeting of continental plates frequently causes seismic activity and powerful earthquakes.


East Timor in no rush to endorse refugee centre

EAST Timor's Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa has warned a refugee processing centre in Timor could take "a bit longer" than Australia wants.

But speaking on the final day of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen's whistlestop tour of the region to drum up support for the refugee centre idea, Mr da Costa said Dili remained genuinely open to the concept, provided it enjoyed support across the region.

"I think the issue could take a little bit longer than the Australian government (may) possibly want," Mr da Costa told The Australian.

His remarks came as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' regional representative Rick Towle said his organisation had had "general" discussions about the proposal, which was announced by Julia Gillard in the lead-up to the federal election.

"There have been some general discussions about what might be the elements of good regional co-operation," Mr Towle told The Australian.

Some sort of involvement by the UNHCR has emerged as common ground among all the countries involved in discussions about the processing centre.

In Dili and Jakarta for talks this week, Mr Bowen said any centre established by Australia would be run in accordance with UNHCR principles.

Mr Towle said the UNHCR supported the basic idea of enhanced regional co-operation, but said it would be premature to discuss the Gillard government's Timor proposal specifically.

"We are interested in discussing how to strengthen refugee protection in Southeast Asia," Mr Towle said.

"A variety of options are under discussion, but what's key is that there are comprehensive arrangements with all states affected by people movement."

On Monday, Mr Bowen said one of those options involved a number of processing centres in countries outside East Timor.

Yesterday, Mr Bowen met Malaysia's Home Affairs Minister Seri Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein in what was the final leg of his tour through the region.

His visit followed a pre-election commitment by the Prime Minister to establish an offshore processing centre in Timor that would house Australia-bound asylum-seekers, who would be eligible for resettlement in partner countries.

The minister met East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta and Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, in Dili and Jakarta earlier this week.

Mr Bowen and Mr Ramos-Horta agree that any refugee processing centre established in East Timor would be an open facility, as opposed to a detention centre.

Mr Bowen also agreed to limit the length of time spent at the facility to three years.

Yesterday, opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison leapt on the concession.

"It was naive to give that commitment because the only way to underwrite that commitment is to guarantee residency in Australia," Mr Morrison said.

"They haven't thought this through. The more they touch, the worse things get."

Mr Bowen returns to Australia with a commitment from East Timor to work up a detailed model on how the centre might operate.

That model will then be discussed during the Bali Process, a regional gathering aimed at combating people-smuggling, to be held in January or February.


TIMOR-LESTE: HIV prevalence rate "under-reported"

Piecing together the whole story
DILI, 14 October 2010 (IRIN) - HIV prevalence is low in Timor-Leste - 0.2 percent based on results from the latest surveillance by the government and World Health Organization (WHO). But this rate is rapidly increasing and most likely under-reported, according to the Health Ministry.

Data on “risky behaviours” is poor for groups considered at risk of HIV infection: surveys have been conducted of prisoners, military personnel, men who have sex with men (MSM) and female sex workers (FSW), but to date there has been no comprehensive nationwide survey of these groups.

A 2010 WHO and government survey of 181 female sex workers and 300 MSM revealed a 1.33 percent HIV infection rate among the men and 2.76 percent infection rate among the women, but the country has “little idea of just how many and where the MSM and FSW are”, said Narciso Fernandes, the Health Ministry’s national HIV/AIDS programme manager.

The country’s first HIV case was diagnosed in 2003. Seven years later, there are fewer than 200 confirmed cases – and health authorities suspect under-reporting. Though the country’s policy is to offer voluntary counselling and testing in nine of the 13 health districts, there are too few counsellors and poor follow-up on positive HIV results, Fernandes said.

Pre-natal HIV testing is currently offered at reference hospitals in two districts, which covers only a small percentage of the estimated 51,000 pregnant women every year, he added.

Below are highlights IRIN compiled from recent HIV-related surveys and interviews:

40.6%FSW who did not use a condom because a client paid extra
8.9: Average number of clients per FSW, per week
0.68%: HIV prevalence among tested HIV patients
1.79%:TB-HIV co-infection rate
25.6%: MSM who have been tested for HIV
32.5%: FSW who have been tested for HIV
9.6%: FSW who used drugs in the past month
60%: FSW drug users who shared needles
3.5: Average number of regular female partners per MSM
43.5%: MSM who used condom with last regular female partner
43%: MSM reporting using a condom last time they had anal sex with a non-regular partner
1.1 millionEstimated national population (World Bank, 2008)
800-1000:Number of people nationwide who tested for HIV in 2009
9%: Women aged 20-24 who were pregnant by age 15

• Interview with Narciso Fernandes, National HIV/AIDS Programme Manager, Ministry of Health , September 2010
• Integrated Bio-Behavioural Surveillance and sentinel surveillance, WHO and Timor-Leste government, September 2010
• Timor-Leste National HIV and Strategy 2011-2016 (draft)
• United Nations General Assembly Special Session2010 Country Progress Report (based on 2008-2009 data)
• Behavioural Surveillance Survey, first-round results forfemale sex workers, men having sex with men anduniformed personnel, International HIV Research Group and University of New South Wales, May-August 2008


Theme(s): Health & Nutrition, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]