In a statement released in time for World Tuberculosis Day, which takes place on 24 March, the SPP considers it essential to encourage these partnerships to improve economic and social conditions, which act as a risk factor.

Maria da Conceição Gomes and Joana Carvalho, from the Tuberculosis Working Commission of the SPP, recall that community structures "complement the SNS [National Health Service] and can facilitate its access", stressing that the latest data indicate an increase in days between the appearance of symptoms and diagnosis, which increases the risk of contagion.

Official data for 2021, presented this week, indicate that the number of tuberculosis cases reported per 100 thousand inhabitants in Portugal has decreased, but the pace of reduction has slowed and diagnosis is still late.

According to the monitoring and surveillance report published by the National Program for Tuberculosis (PNT), of the Directorate-General of Health (DGS), the median number of days until diagnosis worsened in 2021, to 86 days (79 days in 2020), and also increased the number of days of delay attributable to the user.

The authors of the document even anticipate difficulties in the coming years to achieve the goals of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the area of tuberculosis, taking into account the current epidemiological and socioeconomic context.

The SPP recalls that, among the reasons for the high delay attributed to the patient, are factors such as being foreign and being dependent on alcohol, adding that this delay was higher in the region of Lisbon and Tagus Valley.

"The longer the delay in diagnosis, the more the transmissibility of the case that has not yet been treated, and the longer it takes to be treated, the more likely it is to develop more severe diseases and become a more difficult case to treat, which can lead to mortality," they warn.

Maria da Conceição Gomes and Joana Carvalho also warn that there is still in our country "a stigma of the so-called white plague that kills".

"Our role is to support individuals and organisations in raising awareness of the diagnosis of the disease and also of the high cure rate. It is important to invest in the literacy of health professionals, caregivers and patients," they argue.

To facilitate the bridges between health professionals, patient associations and other civil society organizations, encouraging networking and promoting literacy, SPP will promote, on the 24th, three actions: at the Gustave Eiffel Professional School (Amadora), at the Reception Center for Refugees (CAR 2), in Loures, and at the Municipal Emergency Reception Center of Santa Bárbara (Lisbon).

The municipalities where these meetings will take place are three of the most prominent in the district of Lisbon with regard to the notification rate in the period 2017-2021: Amadora had 34.9 cases/100,000 inhabitants, Loures 29.5 and Lisbon 28.7.

"Tuberculosis has a cure, medicine is free. Networking is essential in the integrated response to the end of tuberculosis", reinforce the pulmonologists.