Newsday Tuesday: Childhood Tuberculosis, A Hidden Epidemic


March 31, 2015

6-year-old Bukenya Hethiri lives with his mother in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. For more than three years he coughed without relief. One day in 2014 a voice shouting loudly was heard in his village. It was this voice that ultimately provided Bukenya with an answer to the years-long coughing spell: a medical diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB).


A recent article on explains the complexities of diagnosing TB, especially in children. Due to the disease’s potential to affect many parts of the body, as well as its ability to lie dormant for years, many who have TB aren’t even aware they’ve been infected. Standard TB tests often aren’t effective on children due to the small amount of bacteria lurking in the mucus of those infected. Clinical tests are often required for children to be properly diagnosed, and for many children in high-risk countries, getting to a clinic is out of the question.

Stop TBBack to the voice in the village which came to Bukenya’s rescue: that voice belonged to a local health team member who is part of the SPARK-TB program a partnership of private and public healthcare facilities coordinated by the International Union of Lung Disease and Tuberculosis.
SPARK-TB’s goal is to overcome the lack of skill and equipment needed to diagnose TB in healthcare clinics in Kampala, reducing and even eliminating misdiagnoses. On average, about 30 patients visit the clinic daily, paying 10,000 Ugandan shillings (about $3) to the doctor for the diagnosis; if they test positive for TB, treatment is free.

With SPARK-TB and the Ministry of Health’s prioritization of TB awareness and treatment, children like Bukenya have a better chance at getting a diagnosis and treatment.

Take Action Challenge
Did you know more than 550,000 children are infected with TB around the world? Learn more by reading and sharing the full article at


Photo of Bukenya Hethiri from the original article by Meera Senthilingam, for CNN

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