By Fidelis Akahomen, Abuja
As the world prepares for the 2021 tuberculosis day, health experts have called for increased case detection and testing at community level.
World Tuberculosis Day is commemorated every March 24, to create awareness about the devastating health and economic impact of tuberculosis and also accelerate efforts to end the global TB epidemic, as statistics show that globally, one in four persons is infected with Tuberculosis.
The theme of this year’s World TB Day is ‘The Clock is Ticking’ and it conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders, according to the WHO.
Speaking during the Pre – World TB Day virtual press briefing, organised by the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) of the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, the National Coordinator, NTBLCP, Chukwuma Anyaike, said the country needs to focus on detecting and treating new TB cases to curb spread of the disease.
He said: “Since we are dealing with a highly infectious but treatable disease, we have to focus on detecting these cases and then caring for the affected ones to prevent the spread.”
“Detection of new cases and placing them on care should be our major focus points.
“The country detected 138,000 cases 2020 regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic but can do much better with all hands on deck,” Anyaike continued.
Anyaike further stated that stigma and discrimination associated with TB has prevented people from seeking health services.
“This makes people affected with TB run away from the treatment that they need.
Ending the stigma and discrimination attached to TB will help improve the reactions of those affected to treatment.
They will allow themselves to be detected,” Anyaike added.
On his part, the Executive Director, KNCV TB Foundation Nigeria, Dr Berthrand Odume, urged individuals to get tested for Tuberculosis as people may be asymptomatic.
“Now with the TB infection, you can have the TB, but you are not manifesting the disease. Now when you come to the facility, and we are asking you, do you have fever, do you have cough, weight loss or night sweat, it’s only people that have the disease that will respond positive to the questions, then we can categorize them as symptomatic. But people that don’t have the disease don’t manifest the symptoms, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have TB infection.
“Due to the fear of being diagnosed with COVID-19, case finding of TB patients was difficult as a lot of patients shied away from going to the hospital.
“We’ve noticed that with the stigma, associated with COVID-19, and knowing the similarities between the two Diseases, even people that have cough, out of fear of COVID, deny that they don’t have cough,” Odume said.
He also urges government, partners and the private sector to increase their efforts especially with local funding and commitment to ending tuberculosis.
It is important for political leaders to scale up research, funding and accountability to find more cases and end the TB surge in Nigeria, he said.
The TB Team lead, USAID Nigeria, Temitayo Odusote said there is a need for more stakeholders and partners to come on board and join the fight against TB. She also called for the strengthening of the health systems in the country.
“So we are also calling for a strengthening of the health system in Nigeria, we need to have peripheral, health systems that the populace trust, primary health care centers they can walk into.”