To mark World Tuberculosis Day on Monday, the Health Ministry said patients suffering from AIDS, TB or carriers of HIV would be treated at the expense of the state.
Being an HIV carrier or having full-blown AIDS and contracting tuberculosis often goes together because of compromised immune systems.
The Health Ministry’s TB and AIDS department reported that in 2012, the rate of tuberculosis patients in Israel was among the lowest in the world – 6.4 per 100,000 residents.
Of the 508 people diagnosed with TB in the past year, 90 percent were born abroad and 58% are not Israeli citizens.
According to the World Health Organization, which organized the day, there are 8.6 million people around the world infected with TB – the often-fatal infectious disease spread by mycobacteria, discovered by Dr. Robert Koch in 1882.
WHO said resistance of tuberculosis strains to antibiotics is growing, threatening the life and health of those diagnosed around the world. WHO director- general Dr. Margaret Chan said in Geneva that almost half a million people fell ill with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in 2012, yet less than 25% of these people were diagnosed, mainly due to a lack of access to diagnostic services.
Patients in Israel, including those who are not citizens and lack health insurance, received treatment through the national program to eliminate TB, which was introduced in 1997.
The disease is diagnosed in Israel, mainly among foreigners or immigrants from countries where TB is endemic, but even here, bacteria are becoming more resistant to existing antibiotics.
The foreigners undergo anti-retro-viral treatment, while those who also have HIV receive the anti-AIDS cocktail.
There are nine Israeli centers for the diagnosis and treatment of TB among Israelis and foreigners. Because patients are liable to stop taking TB drugs when they feel better but before the mycobacteria are killed, medical personnel hand them the drugs and watch them swallow the pills.
The theme for World TB Day 2014 is “Reach the Three Million.”
One third of the estimated 9 million people falling ill with TB each year do not get the care they need. Most of them live in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Western Pacific region.
In many countries, it is hard for people to access diagnostic services – particularly for MDR-TB. Some countries have only one central laboratory, which often has limited capacity to diagnose MDR-TB. In some cases, patient samples have to be sent to other countries for testing.