Text messaging, mobile labs and cavaliers on the agenda as TB REACH grantees assess early impact

GENEVA - Riding horses into remote villages in Lesotho, taking the latest testing equipment on the road in Tanzania and providing treatment through private sector clinics in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. These were just some of ways of finding and treating people with TB that were discussed at a TB REACH meeting last week.

The meeting was a chance for recipients of wave one funding from the TB REACH programme to report on progress and share what they had learnt since their projects began in late 2010. TB REACH provides a one year grant for projects which, as the name suggests, reach vulnerable, poor people who would otherwise never be diagnosed or treated for TB.

In Lesotho, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics is using a unique combination of horseback riders and mobile phone text messaging to reach people in remote mountainous villages.

Meanwhile in Mbeya, Tanzania, a partnership between the University of Munich and the National Institute for Medical Research is using a mobile laboratory to provide access to rapid TB testing in remote rural areas, using the GeneXpert machine.

In the Lao People's Democratic Republic, a project run by Population Services International, has brought DOTS treatment to private sector clinics. In what they call 'social franchising', PSI is providing clinics with the tools they need to provide quality TB care in hard to reach areas.

"When we launched TB Reach we wanted to see innovation and direct action to help vulnerable people, and we wanted the TB community to think out of the box. I'm very pleased that already we are seeing achievement on both fronts," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership.

"We are also very pleased to see the enthusiasm among the projects to innovate and learn from each other. We organized this meeting to help project teams prepare their monitoring and evaluation plans, however it was also a great opportunity to share good practice and pick up new ideas".

TB REACH, which is an initiative of the Stop TB Partnership, was launched on 25 January 2010. Thirty projects in 19 eligible countries, which aim to detect and treat an additional 40 000 new smear- positive TB cases, received funding under Wave 1. Applications for Wave 2 are currently being assessed. The TB REACH initiative is supported by a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency.