COVID-19 stalls TB Treatment in Nigeria

By Prudence Ijah, Abuja.
Health experts say the advent of COVID-19 pandemic  has placed limitations on the treatment of Tuberculosis cases in the country.
The Director, Head of  Advocacy, and Social  Mobilization of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, Itohowo Uko,  disclosed that some health workers are reluctant to handle  samples of TB for  testing because of the similarities in the symptoms of TB and COVID-19.
According to her, they end up not giving attention to the patient. Some of the TB  patients  were  stigmatized during the pandemic, as they were being assumed to be down with COVID -19″.
Itohowo however assured the public that plans are ongoing to develop materials to ascertain  the difference between COVID-19 and Tuberculosis.
In her words, “Tuberculosis is still one of the top 10 causes of death in Nigeria, hence the need for more information and awareness to sensitized the public.”
“The knowledge gap  about Tuberculosis is still very low, and a large number of people are not aware about the ailment”
“People still end up using traditional alternative in treating Tuberculosis. Many Nigerians  still believe that TB is not real, and hence do not take the necessary measures”. Itohowo said.
Hence, she urged the media to engage in massive sensitization about Tuberculosis.
“The media need to beam their searchlight on Tuberculosis awareness.They should disseminate information  to the public space such that more citizens will become aware of the ailment ” .
The  Chairman of the Board of Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr. Ayodele Awe, noted that awareness about Tuberculosis is still very low in the country, despite the fact that Nigeria has the highest tuberculosis burden in Africa.
Dr Awe who reaffirmed that there is wrong misconception about Tuberculosis in the public domain,
charged the patient to give the right information about their situation, and also task  health practitioners to ask the right question, and also update the details of their patients to prevent wrong diagnosis.
Earlier, the Deputy Director, Health Orientation and Communication, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Ayoola Olufemi, said there is need for stakeholders to see Tuberculosis as an emergency, and also deplore more resources to  carry out  assessment among the vulnerable.
“We  need to look at the strategy that was  used for COVID-19 which is  emergency risk communications.  We need to build effective communications and utilize  multiple channels to pass message across to people”.
He explained that Communications for attitudinal change must be continuos and the approach must be dynamic.
He said, we need human angle stories that will bring pictures of people suffering from Tuberculosis. We need to develop behavioural change materials in different languages so as to sensitize the public about the ailment”.
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