Dr Aderonke Agbaje, Associate Director, Global Fund Programmes at the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN) has stressed the need for private sector involvement in fighting tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria.
Agbaje, who is also the leader of the USAID Tuberculosis Local Organisation Network (TB LON 3) Project, made the call while participating in a social media engagement organised by the National Tuberculosis Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) on Wednesday to create awareness about TB, ahead of the World Tuberculosis Day.
Marked annually on March 24, World Tuberculosis Day is to raise awareness about tuberculosis and to advocate more efforts to eliminate it.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the first World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, 1982, 100 years after Dr Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause TB.
Agbaje, therefore, said that the provision of community services for tuberculosis would reach individuals who may be living with the disease but yet to be diagnosed and had not started treatment.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2020 Global TB Report, the estimated incidence of TB in the country is 440,000, with just 120,266 placed on treatment in 2019.
This means that over 75 per cent of TB cases in Nigeria were not diagnosed in 2019, and these people continue to transmit the disease in the community.
The TB project official said that stakeholders should be willing to step out-of-the-box in their public health strategies to engage with patent medicine vendors, traditional birth attendants, traditional healers and religious health service providers, often patronised by people in communities when they fall ill.
She added that “we need to be ready to work with everybody, not just healthcare workers.
“For three years now, we have been implementing the Global Fund Public Private Mix Project in 21 states. We work not only with private hospitals but with the entire private sector.
“We are seeing that 40 per cent of the tuberculosis cases being identified are coming from the private sector. IHVN has continued to build their capacity to know the symptoms of TB and refer them to hospitals as appropriate.’’
The public health expert commended community leaders in Osun, Ogun, Oyo and Lagos states, where IHVN is implementing the USAID TB LON 3 project, for being receptive to community TB case finding activities.
She explained that “with the use of a geo-mapping software, IHVN is able to target limited resources at hotspots where local and international data predicts that there are a high number of tuberculosis cases.
“This has led to the discovery of many cases. An instance is in Osun State where more individuals with TB are being located than previous estimates showed.’’
Dr Ayodele Awe, the Chairman of the 2021 World TB Day Planning Committee, who also participated in the social media engagement, said tuberculosis killed more people than COVID-19.
Awe added that “last year, tuberculosis killed an estimated number of 187,000 people in Nigeria. Every hour, 18 people die of tuberculosis.’’ (NAN)