Challenged by the rising
incidence of Tuberculosis around the world and the quest to end the scourge, a health-based Non-Governmental Organisation, Action Health Incorporated (AHI) has warned against stigmatization and discrimination of persons with tuberculosis in order to realize the 2030 deadline of TB eradication.
The Co-founder and Director of the NGO, Dr Uwemedimo Uko Esiet gave the warning at the programme of the launch/scorecard of tuberculosis campaign in Rivers State held at the state Ministry of Justice Hall, Port Harcourt, Monday.
Speaking to The Tide in an interview shortly after the programme, Esiet maintained that stigmation and discrimination had remained a major challenge and impediment in the fight against tuberculosis, adding that until such attitudes are down-played, the fight would be futile.
Esiet said “so far, the main challenge is that people still hold on to what is not correct. There is a whole lot of stigmatization and discrimination around TB and so long as this is there, we will not be getting to end TB as quickly as we want it. Because of the stigma and discrimination, many people who ordinarily would have loved to go for testing are not going and thereby not having access to its treatment”.
Esiet noted that the NGO’s efforts at tuberculosis intervention was to fight the ignorance that people have about the disease saying “what we have largely done is to first do a survey of knowledge, attitude and perception of people around tuberculosis and used that findings to develop a demand creation and behavioural change intervention”.
The Lagos-based NGO director stated that there has been a higher incidence of tuberculosis from over three million to about 4.3 million as revealed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2016 global tuberculosis report and stressed the need for partnership at all levels to end the scourge.
Scoring high the TB awareness campaign in the first four selected local government areas of Okrika, Khana, Obio/Akpor and Ahoada-East of the State, Esiet expressed hope that the programme would get to the other local governments in the state thereby making it a free TB state in the nearest future.
“That is the important reason why we are working with the State tuberculosis control programme manager. What we have done is like an experiment. Now that it has worked, the state TB control programme will take it forward and they have assured us that they will take it to the other local government areas of the state.
Earlier, the Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, Rivers State, Dr Kingsley Aleruchi thanked the Action Health Incorporated for its laudable efforts in the fight against TB and its spread in the state through the training of 80 community vanguards and 20 health workers across the first four selected survey local government of Okrika, Ahoada-East, Obio/Akpor and Khana.
Aleruchi who noted with dismay the high level of stigmatization and discrimination on persons with TB as revealed by the survey conducted by the AHI said such acts had further aided the spread and increase of TB scourge, pointing out that it demanded more awareness and community support to TB patients.
He said “with the increasing rate of the disease and the gap between persons with TB and the rest of the people, there is the need for more regular sensitization across the 23 local government areas of the state and this is to ensure that we rid the state and its communities of TB come 2030”.
It should be noted that TB is curable and the treatment free while calling on persons with a protracted cough of more than two weeks to visit the nearest TB facility for diagnosis and treatment.
Lady Godknows Ogbulu