“Since my family knew I had tuberculosis, their attitude changed towards me. It became worse for me after I told my friends on social media.”
Those were the words of Adeyinka, a tuberculosis (TB) patient presently undergoing treatment. He was narrating his experience about stigmatisation at a recent event in Lagos.
He said: “They believed I had brought shame upon the family. I am presently living in Ikorodu, where I decided to isolate myself.”
Investigations have shown that most people know little or nothing about tuberculosis infection, otherwise known as TB.
“They believe tuberculosis is not curable,” Adeyinka said. “They believe that it is a curse or a spell. I have lost my job to this and I am finding it difficult to cope with the financial burden attached to my ailment.”
Another patient, Olabisi, recalled that she was eight years old when she contracted the disease from a neighbour who later died of TB. For her, the memory of swallowing drugs every time remains something she would never forget.
A TB survivor and convener of Tuberculosis and Other Communicable Diseases Foundation (TOCODIF), Asoro Abubakri Olatunji, said he noticed he coughed persistently and sweated profusely at night.
“It started like a common fever and ordinary cough. I would feel feverish in the evenings, take paracetamol and it was gone only to resurface days later,” Olatunji recalled.
“The cough was very casual, nothing serious to be worried about judging from my outward look. Even when I went to the hospital for diagnosis and probable treatment, tuberculosis was the least infection suspected.
“For months, I was treated for malaria, cold and ordinary cough. But it persisted and was eating deep into my lungs. By the time it was later diagnosed and confirmed to be tuberculosis, it had filled my lungs with fluid, making it virtually impossible for me to breathe. With time, I started losing weight profusely. I would sweat endlessly in the night and was coughing intermittently in the early mornings.
“Apart from losing weight, I lost physical strength and could not sit for too long not to talk of walking a long distance or even put on the generator.
“At first, people thought I had HIV/AIDS and everyone was avoiding me. My family believed it was a spell, while others believed it could be a curse.
“Tuberculosis exhibits all the symptoms of full-blown AIDS. It is only medical tests that can confirm and differentiate the two deadly illnesses.”
Olatunji said he decided to seek medical treatment but the exorbitant cost of doing the x-ray turned him off: “I was later diagnosed at Sobi Specialist Hospital, Ilorin, before I was referred to a health centre in Lagos. That was where I underwent a total therapy that I eventually completed in June 2018 and was declared free and healed of TB,” he said.
Olatunji explained that his terrible experience spurred him to team up with his colleagues and start the TOCODIF to assist in creating awareness about the deadly disease and seeking help for victims.
While speaking at TB Talk 2.0, organised by the foundation at the Lagos Youth Centre, Ikorodu, to commemorate the World Tuberculosis Day, Mrs. Aluko Dorcas, who represented Lagos State Ministry of Health, informed the gathering that good hygiene and early detection are capable of curbing the disease.
Also speaking at the seminar, the chief medical officer of the local government, Mrs Sokoya, noted that reporting early cases of cough that persisted for more than two weeks was important.
She stated that symptoms of tuberculosis include night sweat, loss of weight, loss of appetite, fever and so on.
The supervisor for TB at the centre in Ikorodu, Omotayo Lasisi, enjoined participants to report any suspicious case of coughing to any direct observe therapy (DOT) centre near them. He said that DOT facilities were available in all health centres across the state.
Princess Folashade Olabanji Oba, vice chairman, Ikorodu Local Government Area, who was also at the event, commended the organisers and reiterated her continuous support for the initiative. She promised that the local government would host the next edition.
The symposium featured free HIV/AIDS tests financed by Stop TB Project. There was a drama presentation by Homat Group of Schools and a poetry recitation by Khadeejah Adekanmbi. The programme was organised in partnership with Leo Club Ikorodu, and WFM 91.7 Arepo, near Ibafo, Ogun State, among others.
According to the World Health Organisation, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Each day, nearly 4,500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill to this preventable and curable disease.
Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 54 million lives since the year 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 42 per cent. To accelerate the TB response in countries to reach targets; Heads of State came together and made strong commitments to end TB at the first-ever United Nations high level meeting on the disease in September 2018.
On March 24 each year, the world commemorates the World Tuberculosis Day to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.