By Hassan Zaggi
Treating Tuberculosis (TB) with traditional herbs will end up resulting in drug resistant TB which is always very difficult to handle, the Director, Head of Advocacy, and Social Mobilization of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, Mrs Itohowo Uko
She made the disclosure at the 2nd virtual media briefing organized by Stop TB Partnership Nigeria.
She, however, lamented that while testing and the treatment for TB was free in Nigeria, many people are still doubting the presence of the disease in the country.
Others, she said, are not even aware of the disease.
“People sometimes prefer to take traditional herbs than seeking the proper treatment early at the right facility and we know what that means. Most times it will end up resulting in drug resistant TB which is more difficult to handle.
“While we have testing and treatment of TB in Nigeria free, many people are still not aware of it.
“Some don’t even believe that TB is real and so this has actually impacted negatively on the initial health seeking behavior of most of our people.”
She called on Nigerians with any symptom of TB, especially, consistent coughing for more than two weeks to seek treatment from the right sources to avoid compounding the situation.
“We all know that people often go to multiple places to seek help but in most cases they end up not having the right diagnosis or being referred to the appropriate quarters where they can have their cases being handled,” she stressed.
Speaking on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected negatively the fight against TB, Mrs Uko lamented that fear and stigma associated with TB has prevented many people from seeking health care early.
“They will rather want to go from one herbal centre or the other rather than go to the hospital for fear of being stigmatized.
“Stigmatization and discrimination has actually played down so much on the success of the programme in the country.
“That notwithstanding, even the health workers themselves, they are reluctant to actually handle samples to TB testing because of the similarities in the symptoms of the TB and COVID-19 has also hampered negatively on the TB programme in Nigeria.”
On his part, Deputy Director of the Health Promotion unit of the NOA, who is also a member of the board of Stop TB Partnership, Dr. OluFemi Ayoola, regretted that the major challenge in the fight against TB was poor perception about the disease.
He noted that TB is more dangerous than COVID-19, hence, needed to be seen as a major challenge in Nigeria.
“We have poor perception and that is if you compare it with COVID-19.
“The first thing we need to do is to change the perception of TB in Nigeria to let people see that TB is still a problem and that it can kill. It is endemic in Nigeria. We need to blow it up to an emergency so that people can see that it is dangerous as COVID-19.
“We need to use multiple channels to bring all the stakeholders together including government and the private sector.
“We need to bring all stakeholders on board to let TB be perceived as an emergency in Nigeria and with this we are going to deploy more resources for TB at all levels, he said.