Dr Juliao Dos Reis is on a mission to rid his homeland East Timor of a disease he says should by now be extinct.
Instead, tuberculosis (TB) is prevalent, not only in East Timor but throughout many under-developed countries, killing 1.5 million globally in 2014.
Recently awarded a PhD in Public Health, Dr Dos Reis said even though the anti-TB drug is free in East Timor a large number of patients don’t complete the medication program.
His research found that people were too poor to make daily visits to a clinic over a six-month period and to buy the extra vitamins needed, and they received poor treatment from health service providers.
Dr Dos Reis said a strong belief in traditional healers and a belief that health is controlled by chance, luck or other external power were also factors.
“They expect the traditional healer to cast the sickness away and while they wait for it to go they are infecting other people and delaying their chances of getting an early diagnosis,” he said.
Dr Dos Reis said health workers and professionals needed to work with traditional healers.
“Patients have so much faith in traditional healers that it would be best if they could be trained to screen for suspected TB, give referrals and dispense treatment,” he said.
“Providing education on TB, financial support and enough well-trained health workers to service the population would go a long way to help combat this ancient disease.”