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Health experts canvass increased resources to fight TB, prevent over 4,100 deaths daily

By Paul Adunwoke and Matthew Ogune, Abuja
27 March 2022   |   2:51 am
In the course of the week, this year’s World Tuberculosis (TB) Day was observed to create public awareness about the epidemic.

In the course of the week, this year’s World Tuberculosis (TB) Day was observed to create public awareness about the epidemic.

With the theme, “Invest to End TB. Save Lives,’ stakeholders in the health sector called for increased financial investment and other investments such as hard work from frontline workers, political will from policymakers, private sector investment and support from the general public in order to end the TB epidemic.

Specifically, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) urged governments worldwide to increase resources to prevent and treat more than 4,100 people losing their lives every day to the disease.

AHF Nigeria Country Director, Dr. Echey Ijezie, who made in Abuja in commemoration of World TB Day, regretted that nearly 28,000 more people have contracted the virus.

“On this World TB Day, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), in addition to urging governments worldwide to increase resources to fight the deadly disease, encourages people everywhere to “invest in health and get tested for HIV & TB,” Ijezie said.

Along with being one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases, the AHF director explained that TB is one of the leading causes of death among people living with HIV, which is why it’s so vital that global leaders and individuals alike boost investments to fight TB.

According to him, increasing resources and actions to battle TB is also especially critical amid another ongoing global health crisis in COVID-19. 

Ijezie said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has rightfully captured the world’s attention over the last two-plus years, but tuberculosis remains a significant threat to people in all countries. It’s even more dangerous for people living with HIV since they’re 18 times more likely to develop active TB disease than people without HIV.

“With our World TB Day 2022 theme, ‘Invest in Health: Get tested for HIV & TB,’ we want to send the message loud and clear that the world must do more to preserve the precious gains we’ve made in recent years fighting TB – and make a much-needed push to end this preventable and treatable disease.

“Tuberculosis is a serious health threat, especially for people living with HIV. People living with HIV are more likely than others to become sick with TB. It is for this reason that AHF Nigeria is doing all it can to create more awareness and educate the people about how they can protect themselves and care for those with TB because TB is curable.”

A medical doctor and health promotion specialist, Dr. Obinna Ebirim had said in 2018 at the United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) that world leaders, including Nigerian leaders, committed, among others, to mobilising sufficient and sustainable financing from all sources for universal access to quality prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of TB. With the aim of increasing overall global investments to end TB, at least $13 billion was targeted to be mobilised by 2022.

Currently, less than half of this sum is globally available annually for TB, which portends a threat to the target of ending TB by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the efforts to end TB globally and in Nigeria. For example, the 2019 gains in TB case detection in Nigeria was lost by 2020 at the peak of the pandemic.

To achieve the 2022 and 2030 targets, stakeholders have stressed that there is a need to ramp up investments to end TB. “Financial investment is topmost but we need other investments such as hard work from frontline workers, political will from policymakers, private sector investment and support from the general public. With these investments, we will be able to end TB by 2030 and save lives. The theme of this year’s World TB day is a call on all of us to invest more to accelerate efforts to end TB and save the lives of the over 150,000 Nigerians who die annually from TB.”

Chief Medical Director (CMD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Lagos, Prof. Chris Bode, said everybody should do what they can on their part to end tuberculosis.

He said Nigerians need good ventilated houses, good feeding, immunize themselves, encourage personal hygienic practices and visit clinics for medical checkups.

He said those who are infected by HIV and AIDS should also be taken care of because TB has worsened the condition of people living with this health condition.

President, Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Okerinde Samuel, said tuberculosis is a very infectious disease and the government must invest in the health sector to address pressing health challenges, including tuberculosis. “We call on all stakeholders in the health to prioritise the sector in order to improve healthcare indices in Nigeria”.

He noted that in terms of signs and symptoms of TB, the majority of people exposed to the bacteria do not experience tuberculosis symptoms right away. Instead, the infection may go through three stages, which include primary TB Infection. “This is when the bacteria first enters your body. In many people, this causes no symptoms, but others may experience fever or pulmonary symptoms. Most people with a healthy immune system will not develop any symptoms of infection, but in some people, the bacteria may grow and develop into active disease. Most primary TB infections are asymptomatic and followed by latent TB infection.

“In the case of latent TB Infection, the bacterium is in your body and can be found through medical tests but it is not active. During this stage, you do not experience symptoms and cannot spread the disease to others. In the active stage of the disease, the TB bacteria are active and multiplying. You will feel sick and will be contagious. It is important to seek immediate treatment to avoid complications and infecting others at this stage,” Samuel said.

On his part, Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State chapter, Dr. Adetunji Adenekan noted that the theme for this year’s commemoration indicates that beyond individual issues, government intervention was critical. “One of the risk factors in tuberculosis apart from personal habits has to do with sanitation, overcrowding, body contacts, and adequate ventilation, among others. The same thing is also general for other airborne diseases, contacted through droplet infections. Therefore, the government should invest in improving housing schemes because good housing is very important in ventilation.

Adenekan advocated that government should increase taxation of tobacco distributors as a way of discouraging smoking. “Smoking lowers people’s immunity therefore people should stop smoking. The issue of wearing a face mask is very important in preventing TB because people can contract it through sneezing and coughing. So as we prevent COVID-19, we can also prevent TB and other contagious diseases. We should not forget that since the advent of COVID-19, the prevalence of TB and HIV/AIDS has also increased.”

He said investment might not mean only money. “You might invest your time, resources, and knowledge to save the world. Things that can predispose people to tuberculosis infection should also be checked because if you do not have good nutrition, you stand chances of contracting diseases, as people should try to remain in good health.

“I will advise people that when you coughing, do not cough in the midst of people and when people cough, you have to distance yourself.”

Chairman Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Lagos, Dr. Oluwarotimi Clement advised people to regularly go for medical checkups, especially those above 40 years, to know their health status. “If they can do this, you would see that one or two health issues would be discovered. Therefore, Nigerians should invest and engage in routine medical checkups.

Senior lecturer and Consultant Public Health Physician, Department of Community Health and Primary Health Care, at Lagos State University College of Medicine, Dr. Modupe R. Akinyinka, noted that early diagnosis and prompt treatment is key to ensuring the reduction of the damage that can occur when people get infected with tuberculosis.

“Despite being treatable and preventable, tuberculosis is said to kill three people every minute! This must be reduced to save lives.”

She explained that the theme, ‘Invest to End TB. Save Lives,’ aims at drawing attention to the need to invest in the prevention of TB through research in vaccine production and diagnosis as well as in the treatment of TB with the development of new drugs with fewer side effects. “All of these things require resources. Therefore it is time to invest more to end TB and save future generations from the effects of this preventable disease’, she said.

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