By Stanley Okehie

Breakthrough ACTION-Nigeria, a non-governmental organization with the mandate to catalyze social and behavioural change among Nigerians has held a one-day sensitization programme on Tuberculosis (TB).

The programme which has select media practitioners in attendance, held in Owerri, the Imo State capital, Monday.

In his lecture, the Programme Manager for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, Imo State, Dr. Okafor Charles revealed that Imo ranks 8th among the 36 states of Nigeria, with the highest number of Tuberculosis cases.

He noted that in year 2022, Imo state recorded a total of 4367 TB cases, and majority of the patients are still on treatment.

He further revealed that a projected number of 117,330 Nigerians will be infected by the end of this year if no conscientious effort is made towards creating awareness on Tuberculosis and eradicating the deadly disease.

Dr. Okafor expressed dismay over the low TB awareness creation in Imo state, stressing that most people in rural communities are still not aware of tuberculosis, thereby, perpetuating myths around chronic cough and severe weight loss.

He said low awareness impacts very negatively on acceptance of diagnosis, uptake of treatment and adherence to treatment of tuberculosis.

The Programme Manager harped on the need for the media and religious leaders to partner with the National Tuberculosis Buruli Ulcer And Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), to create health messages around tuberculosis.

He hoped that the sensitization programme would help in resolving issues around treatment refusal, increasing TB cases finding, and reduce the wrong misconception about tuberculosis.

The Focal Person, Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization, Imo TB Programme, Amaka Chizoma took time to highlight the symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of TB to the participants.

According to her, the four symptoms used to screen patients included cough for two weeks’ duration or more, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss.

She revealed that untreated case can infect an average of 10-15 people in a year.

She listed the risk factors for tuberculosis viz: Malnutrition, HIV, Diabetes and close contact with a person with undiagnosed TB.

“Tuberculosis is treated with oral medications for minimum of six months”, the Focal Person revealed, while noting that a person on consistent TB medications for at least 3 weeks is no longer infectious.

To prevent TB, Chizoma added, there is need to avoid overcrowded areas and maintain good cough etiquette.

Assistant Programme Officer TB, Breakthrough Action-Nigeria, Cecilia Kafran, while noting that TB testing and treatment are free, stressed the need to educate community members on how TB is transmitted.

She raised concerns on stigmatization and discrimination of TB patients, which, she said, make it more difficult for persons with TB to start or continue with care, because their fears of being identified as a carrier may hinder access to health services.

She said the essence of the sensitization was to improve quality of media reporting on tuberculosis, increase media personnel knowledge on the disease and control efforts in Nigeria, and to build the capacity of media personnel on human-centred reporting among others.

She released the following TB toll-free numbers; 3340, USSD *3340#, while urging everyone to get involved in the fight against tuberculosis.

The Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists, Imo Council, Comrade Ifeanyi Nwanguma, in his vote of thanks applauded Breakthrough Action-Nigeria for partnering with Imo State Ministry of Health to host such programme in the state and assured them that Imo NUJ will also, partner with the association in its fight against eradicating tuberculosis and creating awareness on the airborne disease.

He also promised that the union will create a TB club in support of their efforts.

Dr Golibe Ugochukwu, Senior Programme Officer of KNCV – Royal Dutch Tuberculosis Foundation and Felicita Obiaju, Deputy Programme Manager, Imo State TB Programme were among the team from the NGO at the programme.

Nkoyo Umoh, Programme Officer, Social and Behavioural Change, USAID Breakthrough Action-Nigeria was also at the occasion and delivered a lecture on Social and Behavioural Change.

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