Make TB Drugs Accessible, Affordable, Govts Urged

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* As Agbami launches awareness campaign in Oyo

Abimbola Akosile

Governments across Nigeria have been enjoined to make Tuberculosis (TB) drugs accessible and affordable in various health facilities as most of the people affected do not have the means to purchase drugs even when the drugs are available.Private clinics were also urged to offer free treatment of TB patients, where not yet in operation, in a bid to reduce its spread and prevalence.

The calls were made at the launch on tuberculosis awareness raising campaign in Oyo State, which was organised by Agbami and Parties in collaboration with the Oyo State government in Ibadan the state capital, recently.

In his presentation at the programme, Principal Coordinator, CAFSO-WRAG for Development and Co-organiser of Agbami & Parties’ Launch, Dr. Tola Winjobi described tuberculosis as a disease of the tropical region in which Nigeria falls.

“As a matter of fact, Nigeria ranks second among the countries affected in Africa, according to World Health Organisation. This should be a cause for worry while every effort should be made to combat its spread. More so, one’s body may harbour the bacteria that cause tuberculosis without the person knowing it which is called latent TB as against the Active TB which makes one sick and can easily infect others. This is all the more reason one needs to consult a physician no matter the nature of TB one has”, he said.

Also speaking, Executive Director, Women’s Rights and Health Project, Ejigbo, Lagos, Bose Ironsi “Nigeria is fifth among the 22 high TB burden countries of the world and ranks second in Africa. According to USAID and WHO estimates, more than a quarter of new TB patients in Nigeria are also HIV positive. Estimated annual incidence of TB in the country is 311/100,000. Despite these high levels of incidence, case detection of TB in Nigeria is a mere 30 per cent.

“There are many reasons for the high incidence of TB and its poor detection ratios in Nigeria; however, chief among these is the fact that there exists a very low level of health service uptake, which is reinforced by the poor health seeking behaviour among the general populace.

“Addressing this challenge requires a strategic community-based Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) intervention. This is premised on the belief that TB is spread mainly due to poor knowledge, which in turn influences the health seeking behaviour of the people. Hence, there is the need for continuous and sustained communication to motivate positive behavioural change, through a Peer Educators Training Programme”, she said in a release.

According to her, “Against this background Agbami and Parties in collaboration with the Oyo State Government Tuberculosis Unit and Women’s Rights and Health Project (WRAHP) is implementing a sustained awareness raising campaign on TB in Oyo East and Atiba Local Government Areas to reach 10,000 beneficiaries with information and services in TB prevention and control.

“This campaign involves the training of community representatives to educate their peers on TB prevention and control strategies. #United we can end TB now!” Ironsi added.
Winjobi also added, “Among the symptoms of active TB are: coughing that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, and loss of appetite.

“Tuberculosis can also affect other parts of the body, including kidneys, spine or brain. Therefore it is advisable to see a physician any time one has a fever, unexplained weight loss, drenching night sweats or a persistent cough which may be often signs of TB, but can also result from other medical problems.

“Secondly, behaviour change is necessary especially for smokers because smoking can aggravate the condition of someone who has latent TB and doesn’t know it. The effect of smoking on lungs is lethal while TB complicates it. Intravenous drug users or alcohol abusers might weaken their immune system and make them more vulnerable to tuberculosis. Therefore, the need to refrain from tobacco, IV and alcohol abuse is paramount for a person already having a TB.

“Thirdly, awareness creation is central to combating TB as some people are still not aware of the extent of the damage TB can cause while some are ignorant of its signs and symptoms. Community mobilisation and sensitisation especially at the grassroots, in slums, rural setting are important to enlighten the people about the scourge of TB, the factors responsible, and what they need to do and how they can help others”, Winjobi, who is also the National Coordinator, Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development, added.