A Tuberculosis expert in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Bolatito Aiyenigba has expressed worry over the position of Nigeria as the sixth and first in rank among countries with high Tuberculosis cases in the world and Africa respectively.
Aiyenigba, who is the Deputy Project Director on Tuberculosis, Breakthrough Action-Nigeria, (BA-N), a social behaviour change project in Akwa Ibom State, lamented that the major challenge with Tuberculosis control in the country is finding hidden cases.
Aiyenigba raised the concerns during the flag-off of the national TB testing week, insisting that there are more unknown cases of patients with the condition in the communities.
She said the Akwa Ibom State government in partnership with the project was working towards changing the TB narrative of the disease in the state and ensuring that Nigeria is removed from the list of high burdened countries.
As part of its collaboration with the Akwa Ibom State government, the project will commence testing residents to encourage TB case findings, put people who are vulnerable to active TB on preventive treatment and proactively prevent further transmission of TB in the community adding that such would change the narrative.
In a statement, Aiyenigba said, “Nigeria ranks sixth among the 30 high burden countries in the world and first in Africa in terms of the number of people with Tuberculosis. The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Programme (NTBLCP) and its partners have made concerted efforts to change the Tuberculosis narrative in Nigeria from a high burdened country.
She regretted that low TB case finding for both adults and children has remained a major challenge adding that the organisation has embarked on an awareness campaign tagged”Check Am O’ to encourage people to check their tuberculosis status in any of the health facilities across the nation.
Speaking on the national TB testing week, the expert noted that World TB Day which is commemorated on the 24th of March every year with a lot of awareness and outreaches may not be enough to sensitize the people till the next calendar year
“All these efforts are contributing to improving general population awareness of Tuberculosis and increasing the number of TB cases diagnosed and put on treatment. it is designed to raise public awareness. The awareness during World TB Day is also supported by increased access to testing at the community level due to intensive community outreach conducted in almost every state in Nigeria during the period. This contributes to TB case finding in Nigeria.” The statement added
In corroboration, the programme manager, Akwa Ibom State Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (TBLCP), Bassey Akpan, while speaking with some journalists in his office said Akwa Ibom State is fully prepared for the TB testing week.
He added that the state government has carried out ‘mapping’ to discover areas with high concentration which he said has been found both in the rural and urban centres of the state.
Akpan who noted that Akwa Ibom State has not reached the target of finding 3000 cases per quarter, said as of last quarter, the state registered over One Thousand Four Hundred persons with TB stressing that the testing exercise would allow the state government improve on case finding, ensure more screening for TB, provide treatment to those infected and in the long run ensure the reduction of TB cases in the state
He, therefore commended the partners involved in the TB control programme including Breakthrough Action Nigeria, a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project in Akwa Ibom State for the support particularly in the area of social behaviour change communication,” which he said has helped in demand creation for TB control programme services.
“We will be doing more in the concentration areas, go deeper to find more cases and ensure that more people come out for treatment,’’ he said.
She encouraged people to watch out for coughs that last more than two weeks, usually with a low-grade fever, drenching night sweat, weight loss and go for a TB test, stressing that the disease is curable within six months of treatment.