By Royal Ibeh,
Stakeholders have called for a change in the people’s perception of Tuberculosis (TB), while reiterating that, TB is as dangerous as COVID-19, of which a lot of attention have been centred on.
Stakeholders, at a virtual TB media roundtable with the theme “Improving TB awareness creation: Lessons from COVID-19, said while awareness on TB is still very low in Nigeria, the country would need to deal with the people’s perception of the disease, because it is very poor.
Deputy director, Health Orientation and Communication, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Olufemi Ayoola, said while awareness on TB in Nigeria is low, it is not the major problem. Just the way a lot of Nigerians died as a result of COVID-19, Ayoola said TB is killing people in one way or the other, adding that the perception of TB in Nigeria is very low.
“We have poor perception of TB. COVID-19 came with a perception of a new disease that we don’t know anything about. It came with the fear that it can kill and this brought panic. Because of this perception of COVID-19, everybody tried to seek more knowledge about the pandemic. But TB is also killing more Nigerians on a daily basis, but people have little knowledge about the disease,” he added.
To change the narrative, Ayoola said, “the first thing we need to do for TB in Nigeria is to change the perception. We must change the perception of TB in Nigeria to let people see that TB is still a problem. it can kill. We need to declare TB as an emergency, so that people can see that it is more as dangerous as COVID-19.”
To achieve this, the deputy director said, “We need to use multiple channels, bringing all the stakeholders together, both government and private and we must change our communication objectives.”
Head of communication and social mobilisation, the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Itohowo Uko said tuberculosis knowledge in Nigeria is still low.
Uko said, “Many people are still not aware of it, and some do not even believe that TB is real. The COVID 19 pandemic, has also impacted negatively on the initial health-seeking behaviour of most of our people, as well as the adherence to even those that have been placed on treatments.
“We are only able to identify 26 percent of the estimated TB cases in Nigeria. And we are able to put them on treatments, but what that means is that we still have an overflow of 74 percent of the estimated cases that are still in the community.”
Factors fuelling the disease in Nigeria, according to Uko are, myths and misconceptions which have actually posed serious challenges about the transmission of the disease and have actually affected the health behaviour of people who are in the community, adding that the health workers themselves sometimes don’t actually believe in the transmission.
Discrimination, lack of accurate information, stigma, and fear of association with TB are other factors that have triggered more deaths from TB, she added.