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Free Content Tuberculosis treatment in a refugee and migrant population: 20 years of experience on the Thai-Burmese border

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SETTING: Although tuberculosis (TB) is a curable disease, it remains a major global health problem and an important cause of morbidity and mortality among vulnerable populations, including refugees and migrants.

OBJECTIVE: To describe results and experiences over 20 years at a TB programme in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border in Tak Province, Thailand, and to identify risk factors associated with adverse outcomes (e.g., default, failure, death).

DESIGN: Retrospective review of routine records of 2425 patients admitted for TB treatment in the Mae La TB programme between May 1987 and December 2005.

RESULTS: TB cases notified among refugees decreased over 20 years. Among patients treated with a first-, second- or third-line regimen, 77.5% had a successful outcome, 13.5% defaulted, 7.6% died and 1.3% failed treatment. Multivariate analysis for new cases showed higher likelihood of adverse outcomes for patients who were Burmese migrants or Thai villagers, male, aged >15 years or with smear-negative pulmonary TB.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that treatment outcomes depend on the programme's capacity to respond to specific patients' constraints. High-risk groups, such as migrant populations, need a patient-centred approach, and specific, innovative strategies have to be developed based on the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised populations.
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Keywords: Thailand; migrants; refugees; tuberculosis treatment

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Médecins Sans Frontières, Paris, France 2: Médecins Sans Frontières, Mae Sot, Thailand 3: Department of Community and Social Medicine, Mae Sot General Hospital, Thailand 4: Epicentre, Paris, France

Publication date: 01 December 2010

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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