The Faces of Success in the Battle Against MDR-TB in Ethiopia
The first Ethiopian patients ever to be treated for idrug-resistant tuberculosis by the Ethiopian National TB Program pose with CHC director Dr. Sok Thim (third from left) and Dr. Ridwan Bushra (bottom right), the head of the Ethiopian drug-resistant TB program. The doctors and a nurse from St. Peter’s Hospital in Addis Ababa (far right) join the happy group, who all became smear negative after three months of therapy.

With support from the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, and donation of antibiotics from Eli Lilly Corporation, the Global Health Committee, in cooperation with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, has brought treatment of drug-resistant TB to Ethiopian patients for the first time.

Lessons learned from years of treating drug-resistant TB in Cambodia were directly transferred in an extraordinary colleague-to-colleague exchange in Ethiopia and in Cambodia, resulting in a rapid uptake of knowledge and procedures by the Ethiopian health care workers. This unique partnership is showing how drug-resistant TB can be effectively treated even in poor countries with few resources.

Just a few months after the start of treatment, the first cohort of Ethiopian men and women with drug-resistant TB (pictured) are obviously feeling better and looking well. The traces of tuberculosis are gone from their sputum and the patients are on their way to a full cure. They are among the lucky ones to receive antibiotics and care from Ethiopian doctors who trained with CHC/GHC staff in Ethiopia in October and in Cambodia in January 2009, and then returned to Addis Ababa to start the first ever drug-resistant TB treatment project in their country.

"Drug-resistant TB drugs were promised to Ethiopia by international agencies almost a year ago, but have been held up due to unpardonable bureaucracy. The CHC/GHC and the Jolie-Pitt and Annenberg Foundations, along with Eli Lilly stepped in to fill the gap. The capacity in the country to treat drug-resistant TB is growing by leaps and bounds and is establishing a new international model to deal with the drug-resistant TB emergency," says Anne Goldfeld, MD, the cofounder of the CHC/GHC.

However, these patients are only a fraction of those who need treatment, says Goldfeld. "It is unacceptable that people are dying from a curable infectious disease. Ethiopia is becoming a leader in Africa in the treatment of drug-resistant TB, and the GHC will continue to do whatever it takes to obtain the necessary medicines and provide access to care for all of the estimated 6000 Ethiopians a year with the disease."