Over 112 functional Tuberculosis treatment centres existed in various Local Government Areas, but unfortunately people are not accessible to most of these treatment centres due to lack of information.
Tuberculosis is a chronic disease ravaging people across the globe. By the ranking of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigerians are becoming more and more vulnerable to the disease, as Nigeria is rated number one in Africa suffering from the disease and fifth in the world.
Following the startling revelation of the World Health Organisation on the ravaging scourge of Tuberculosis on Nigerians, experts are equally making moves to check the deadly trend of the disease in the country.
One of such experts that has shown concern over the need to curb the increase in the cases of Tuberculosis in the country is Dr Bamdele Agborubere, the Rivers State Tuberculsois and Leprosy Control officer.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide on Sunday, recently, Dr Bamdele attributed the increase in the cases of the disease in the country to lack of education on the signs and symptoms of the disease which leads to late cases of detection, and subsequent stigmatization of patients.
Although Dr Bamdele declared that leprosy, another deadly disease, had been put under control at the state and federal level, he admitted that Tuberculosis has continued to pose a serious threat to lives in Rivers State and Nigeria in general, with a co-infection ration of HIV/AIDS.
He pointed out that public awareness ratio on the disease in Rivers State was still very low and this make people vulnerable to the communicable disease.
According to Dr Bamdele, plans are in the offing to use the big facilities like the General Hospitals, which the generality of patients will use, so as slow detecting rate can be checked.
Dr Bamdele further said that over 112 functional Tuberculosis treatment centres existed in various Local Government Areas, but unfortunately people are not accessible to most of these treatment centres due to lack of information.
To properly educate the people on the existence of these treatment centres, he said there was need for massive enlightment campaigns through media jingles and other forms of information dissemination to the people. “This will help them to quickly recognise the problem they have, and make them go for treatment and screening at the various centres. In TB infection, we are more concerned about the sputum smear positive cases, those are the ones that can easily be transferred to other persons.” With a wanton level of ignorance on the disease, he said people are not voluntarily going for screening and these make the signs and symptom of the disease most contagious.
Apart from the 112 functional treatment centres across the state, Dr Bamdele said there were only 22 microscopic centres networking with the treatment centres and this is grossly inadequate.
He said at least 54 microscopic screening centres was needed to properly handle cases of TB in the state.
Dr Bamdele also made clarification on the relationship between TB and HIV infections. His worlds: “TB is not like HIV, but there are other methods to screen voluntarily for TB without signs, but it will only show that the person has TB infection not the disease.
TB infection is different from TB disease. Most people across the world have TB infection, at least 80% of the world’s population have had TB infection through one way or the other, but the same can live the entire span of his or her life without coming down with TB disease.”
He added: “In HIV, it is not the same, but once one has contacted HIV infection it will definitely develop into AIDS disease unless it is detected earlier enough and anti-retroviral therapy commenced to help the immune system.”
The expert noted that the Tuberculosis disease cannot be stopped through the use of vaccine because it is air borne, and that is why it is necessary to immunise children at birth to make them develop immunity resistance against the disease.
As a practical response to the rampaging scourge of TB in Nigeria, Dr Bamdele said the Federal Government Budget to the health sector, must meet up with the requirement of the World Health Organisation, which is about 15% of the entire annual federal and state budget. The allocation, he noted, would be complemented by donor partners and such funds must be judiciously administered.
He decried the alarming level of disinterestedness of multinational companies to health matters, stating that such apathy was inimical to the development of the country.
He, therefore, called on multinational companies to initiate health initiative policies like establishment of TB screening centres across the state for free accessment by patients. He also cautioned against the stigmatisation of Tuberculosis patients.
Tonye Nria -Dappa / Taneh Beemene