About Breathe Free Tibet
Breathe Free Tibet was established as an extension of the work started by Friends of Tibetan Delek Hospital, an organization formed to help Delek Hospital expand its capacity and meet critical needs. Breathe Free Tibet took over that role in 2009 and continues to improve and expand the care provided at the hospital. Delek Hospital is located in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile.
Breathe Free Tibet is a network of individuals, academic organizations, philanthropists and donors whose chief purpose is to improve the health of Tibetan refugees by conquering Tuberculosis (TB), which is the number one killer of Tibetans worldwide. With significant financial, governmental, scientific and humanitarian support, we will achieve our goal of eradicating this deadly disease among Tibetans.
Our project is inspired by the hope and optimism of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has lent his full support to this effort. In his own words:
“We have made great strides in treating TB in the past but we have a long way to go.”
All Breathe Free funds are managed by The Tibet Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity given the highest 4 Star rating by Charity Navigator.com It has a stellar 25-year track record of improving the lives Tibetans.
Two million people continue to die from TB every year. Tibetans are especially susceptible to TB because of their refugee status, diet, an ever-changing climate and other factors. But TB is a treatable disease. We have effective, inexpensive antibiotics that cure most cases of TB. However, when TB is treated incorrectly or incompletely, it can become drug resistant – complicating treatment and adding greatly to the expense.
This is an unjust and incomprehensible situation. We ask others to join us in this commitment to urgent action. With a major increase in resources you can join the fight to cure TB among Tibetan refugees.
Why Is TB Still Around?
TB is generally an urban disease that is spread by living in close quarters. Tibetans have historically been a nomadic people, and TB was incredibly rare before the Chinese invasion in 1959. The Tibetan traditional lifestyle appeared to protect them from infection. After the invasion, Tibetan refugee status created the risk factors for TB. Now, the rate of Tibetan TB infection is among the highest in the world.
Risk factors for TB include poverty, crowding, diet and, most importantly, refugee status. Lack of screening, lack of access to medical care and lack of the necessary medication all contribute to TB.
Everyone on the Breathe Free Tibet team is committed to and passionate about working together toward the eradication of TB among Tibetans. From the Tibetan doctors, to medical school academics, to outreach workers and administrators, everyone listens to and respects each other. Communication is vital to our cause.
TB eradication is rigorous work. Every patient with TB needs to be either hospitalized or given treatment on a regular basis – sometimes daily – for a minimum of six months. This continuous care is called Directly Observed Therapy, or DOT, and is the World Health Organization standard for TB eradication worldwide. Study after study has shown that DOT works. Without it, drug resistance to the TB germ is much more likely.
Because this kind of therapy is so time intensive, we need a significant number of Tibetan outreach workers. One of our primary goals is to train and employ local Tibetans to do the majority of the work necessary, including directing healthcare and policy planning. Tibetans treating Tibetans will assure success.
Principles and values
Breathe Free Tibet’s priority is to help our Tibetan friends cure TB among their own.
Some key strategies include:
- Academic guidance from one of the premier world class medical institutions, Johns Hopkins Medical Center;
- Collaboration from the Tibetan Government in Exile Parliament and Department of Health;
- Financial support from a variety of donors, large and small, who want to help Tibetans survive and thrive, and;
- Hiring as many local Tibetans as we can to develop and implement the program.
We must also focus on three important spheres necessary to success:
- Science and health: Finding the best way to treat TB;
- Cultural: Educating the Tibetan community to see the necessity of TB screening, treatment and eradication, and;
- Political: Making sure that the government in exile is involved with all steps and planning.
In addition, we will continue to work under the guidance and knowledge of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
- 2012: Test 25 percent, or 130,000, of Tibetans in exile for TB in all resettlement projects in India and Nepal.
- 2013: Test 50 percent of Tibetans in exile for TB and reduce the rate of TB to levels generally seen in Asia.
- 2014: Test greater than 75 percent of Tibetans in exile
- 2015: To reduce new TB cases by 90 percent.
- To save an ancient culture in danger of extinction by curing TB among Tibetans;
- To ensure that every TB patient has access to effective diagnosis, treatment and cure;
- To stop transmission of TB, and;
- To make it easy and affordable to receive TB treatment.