Highlights

World AIDS Day 2013 commemorated

World AIDS 2014World AIDS Day was observed on 2 December 2013 (1 December being Sunday) by the Ministry of Public Health, DPR Korea, in collaboration with WHO and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.  The commemorative event was held in the Grand People’s Study House, Pyongyang, with participation from national health professionals, officials from various Ministries, the UN Resident Coordinator, UNICEF representative, social organizations, and staff from UN agencies.  Media personnel from both print and TV media participated in the function.   

Speaking on the occasion, Ministry of Public Health highlighted the role of preventive measures in sustaining HIV free status in DPR Korea, and the attention the national authorities are giving to this purpose.  WHO, addressing the occasion, underlined the need to expand HIV and STI prevention interventions, including awareness generation and condom promotion among high risk groups. Improving and expanding counseling and testing services, and the need to establish linkages with other national health programmes, particularly TB, viral hepatitis, maternal and child health, were highlighted. Both underlined the importance of strengthening surveillance systems, including serological and behavioral surveys. A presentation on the National HIV/AIDS Programme was given by the National Programme Manager, followed by screening of a short advocacy film. At the occasion, message of Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, the Regional Director for WHO South East Asia Region on the occasion of the World AIDS Day 2013, and other WHO reference materials were also shared. AIDS posters designed and distributed locally were put on display for the audience.

 International and national participants, including journalists, were then invited and taken to observe the voluntary HIV counseling and testing center at the Central Hygiene and Anti-epidemic Institute, Pyongyang. WHO was highly appreciated by MOPH for the support provided to the HIV testing laboratories at the national and provincial level.

Key messages, including information, education and communication on prevention and control of HIV/AIDS, were disseminated by television, radio and newspapers. Health awareness activities to prevent and control HIV/AIDS were carried out by health education teams at provincial level on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2013.

GeneXpert for rapid diagnosis of TB

On 20 May 2013 the first ever GeneXpert system  was installed in the National TB Reference Laboratory in Pyongyang with support from World Health Organization. This new WHO recommend technology can very accurately identify Mycobacterium Tuberculosis and resistance to Rifampicin (a primary drug of choice in treatment of TB) in just two hours. By conventional culture technology this diagnosis takes at least 6-8 weeks.  Enrolling patients found to be resistance to rifampicin appropriate anti-TB drugs quickly   assists in improving treatment outcomes and also reducing further transmission to other people in the community.

The GeneXpert System integrates and automates sample processing, nucleic acid amplification, and detection of the target sequences in simple or complex samples using real-time PCR and reverse transcriptase PCR. The system consists of an instrument, computer, barcode scanner, and preloaded software for running tests on collected samples and viewing the results. The system requires the use of single-use disposable GeneXpert cartridges thus the test is self-contained and cross-contamination between samples is eliminated.

More such machines will be required in the future but most importantly resources to ensure second-line anti-TB drugs for management of all DR-TB cases in DPR Korea still remains a challenge.

World TB Day Observed in DPR Korea

World TB Day which falls on 24th March each year was commemorated on 25th March 2013 in DPR Korea. During the programme organized by Ministry of Public Health at the Peoples Palace of Culture, Pyongyang, Dr Pak Jong Min, Director of the Department of External Affairs, Ministry of Public Health expressed his appreciations to the health professionals and officials of various national and international agencies including WHO, UNICEF, Global Fund and international NGO partners for their active support to the national efforts for prevention and control of tuberculosis. He said “with quality implementation of DOTS strategy, we have been able to surpass the WHO target for case detection rate with a remarkable progress in treatment of new smear positive cases by achieving more than 90% treatment success rate last year.”

Dr Yonas Tegegn, WHO Representative to DPR Korea, while highlighting the success in TB control achieved through exemplary  multi-sectoral approach, stressed the need for further efforts, especially in relation to rise in antimicrobial resistance and in relation to the high cost and more difficult management of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). He underscored the need to enhance technical capacity needed for diagnosis of MDR-TB and restated the support to be provided by WHO for quality assurance leading to accreditation of National TB Lab. WHO is also providing GeneXpert system for rapid diagnosis of MDRTB, he added. On the occasion of World TB Day, WHO also provided warm clothing for TB patients in few sanatorium

Ms Desiree Jongsma, UNICEF Representative  during her speech stressed the need for strengthening diagnosis and management of childhood tuberculosis with adoption of new guideline for pediatric TB. She stressed the need for continuation of effective partnership between different sectors and organizations prevailing in DPRK for dealing with challenges TB control.

The formal session was followed by a visit to the National TB Reference Laboratory which was being supported by partners particularly Christian Friends of Korea (CFK) and Stanford University. This Laboratory acts as reference laboratory for provincial and county TB laboratories and which also is a centre for training and mentoring of laboratory staff at all levels.

 

Observation of World AIDS Day 2012 in DPRK

Ministry of Public Health, DPR Korea in collaboration with WHO and IFRC observed World AIDS Day on 3 December, 2012 (1 December being Saturday) in order to increase public awareness on the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. The commemorative event was held in People’s Palace of Culture, Pyongyang with participation of health professionals from health facilities, representatives from social organizations like Youth Union, Trade Union, Women Union, UN agencies and international NGOs.

 

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Pak Jong Min, Director of Department of External Affairs, MoPH highlighted the HIV free status of DPRK. Dr Nazira Artykova, Acting Representative of WHO, quoted the message of Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, Regional Director of WHO South East Asia Region.  Both the speakers underlined the importance of strengthening surveillance systems including serological and behavioral surveys and Voluntary Confidential Counseling and Testing (VCCT) at health facilities to maintain HIV free status of the country.

 

International and national participants including journalists were later exposed to health education around HIV/AIDS, counseling and HIV testing activities at the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital and National Blood Center. The key messages including IEC information on the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS on the occasion of World AIDS Day were disseminated through mass media including TV, Radio and newspapers.

 

Health education activities on the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS by health education teams were carried out at provincial level on the occasion of the World AIDS Day.

GLOBAL FUND PROJECT IN DPR KOREA

The Phase I of Global Fund supported TB Project in DPR Korea started in June 2010 with UNICEF as the Principal Recipient of this Global Fund grant and WHO is Sub-recipient. Considering the high performance ratings of A2 for Phase I implementation, the Global Fund approved the Phase II of the grant for a total amount USD 34.3 million. WHO DRPK signed the agreement for Phase II of the project with UNICEF on 15 November 2012 for an amount of US$ 2.784 million. This phase will continue till June 2015.

 

The Global Fund Malaria Project Phase II Grant Agreement between UNICEF and WHO was signed on 26 October 2012 for an amount of US$ 3.254 million. That grant will continue till 28 February 2015.

 

During Phase I of the Project, the four key players, Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF, WHO and the Global Fund worked cohesively and with strong commitment to not only timely implement all the planned activities but overcame    various challenges. The key achievements under the grant have been: Reduction of malaria disease burden by 40% as compared to 2009 at national level (reduction of 94% compared to 2001); No reported malaria deaths; distribution of 711,960 LLINs and coverage of over 486,411 households with Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS). Under the TB grant NSP case detection rates last year was over 81%  and treatment success rate was over 90%. Diagnosis and treatment of drug-resistant TB cases has been started, over 14,000 health  workers have been trained this year and other sectors including railways, police and army has been sensitized about TB control.

Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director visits DPR Korea

Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South East Asia was in DPR Korea from 24 to 26 September 2012. During his short stay, he met with H.E. Prof. Dr Choe Chang Sik, Minister for Public Health, Mr Ri Hung Sik, Director-General, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of high profile government officials and Heads of UN Agencies to exchange views on health sector and other developmental activities in DPR Korea.

 

Dr Samlee underlined the importance of presence of UN agencies in DPR Korea to continue humanitarian assistance.  He also emphasized the importance of development in other sectors like nutrition, education, urban planning water and sanitation.

 

Dr Samlee also visited a number of health facilities in Pyongyang: Vaccine Factory, Telemedicine Project at Kimmanyu Hospital, Taedonggang District Hospital, National TB Reference Laboratory, National Dental Hospital and National Ophthalmology Hospital.

 

Addressing WCO staff, Dr Samlee appreciated their dedicated efforts and encouraged them to further build on collaborative efforts with the Government of DPR Korea, other partner agencies and international community to ensure good health for the people of the country.

More HIGHLIGHTS

 

 

Dr. Stephan Paul Jost

WR DPRK OFFICE

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