500,000 Nigerians living with tuberculosis have no access to treatment – Aisha Buhari

500,000 Nigerians living with tuberculosis have no access to treatment – Aisha Buhari

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The Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, on Tuesday said no fewer than 500,000 Nigerians living with tuberculosis were doing so without access to treatment, promising to champion the cause for its eradication in Nigeria.

Mrs. Buhari’s observation came when she spoke during a two-day National Tuberculosis Conference which was organised in Abuja by National TB Partnership in Nigeria between 17-18 May, 2016.

“Free treatment is offered to 95,000 adults and about 5,000 children each year,” Mrs. Buhari said. “However, almost 500,000 Nigerians with tuberculosis do not receive treatment and, therefore, suffer unnecessarily, die prematurely and continue to spread the disease.”

“This must change. It’s based on the need for this change that I accepted to be the champion to end TB in Nigeria.”

The event, themed: ‘The Hidden Face of Tuberculosis: Challenges in Identification and Management among Vulnerable Groups in Nigeria’, was held to “improve synergy among all stakeholders working to end TB in Nigeria,” organisers said.

Eric Goosby, a United Nations expert on tuberculosis, said the disease had become deadlier than HIV/AIDS.

“The 1.5 million people who die from TB have now exceeded the HIV deaths which are 1.1million globally,” Mr. Goosby said. “It reminds us of our need to reengage in strengthening our response to identify and retain people in care.”

Mr. Goosby, who spoke during a wrap up media briefing of the event on Wednesday morning, said there was a need to increase surveillance and diagnosis for the disease.

“Increasing the surveillance and ability to know who has and does not have TB becomes important and it is very gratifying to see your highest leadership in the health round focused on acknowledging that area that needed strengthening and engaging in the process that strengthen it,” Mr. Goosby said.

The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said the federal government was currently working to equip 111 selected clinics across the country with new GeneXpert machines in order to aid diagnosing and treatment of tuberculosis.

“We are looking at the concept, where we have at least 19 workers with six major healthcare workers in a primary health centre so that we can interface with communities.
“We need to go to people’s homes and pick out TB from there, if we can improve the diagnosis, we will also improve the treatment and make sure that we wipe out TB,” Mr. Adewole said.

GeneXpert is a modern detection device used in isolating bacterial DNA and speedy diagnosing of the deadly disease. The device also helps to treat tuberculosis timely and effectively. It was certified by the World Health Organisation in 2010 and adopted by the Nigerians government in 2011.

At least 30,000 Nigerians living with tuberculosis are said to have been diagnosed with the machines so far.
TB is an airborne infectious disease caused by bacteria that spreads through the air, person to person, when someone coughs or sneezes. One in three people worldwide have latent TB, according to WHO.

At least 600,000 Nigerians are believed to be living with the disease.
The National TB Partnership in Nigeria said it would build on the success of the event to continue the conversation on the debilitating effects of tuberculosis on Nigerians.

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