Experts have called for increased awareness and sensitisation on tuberculosis to reduce its burden as the disease still remains highly contagious.
They spoke at a webinar TB Media Roundtable with the theme: “Improving TB Awareness Creation: Lessons from COVID-19’’.
According to them, more focus remains on COVID-19 and HIV while TB, which is the world’s most deadly infectious disease continues to ravage with about 74 per cent overflow estimated to still be in the community.
Newsmen reports that tuberculosis is an infection disease caused by bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Commenting, Mrs Itohowo Uko, Head of Communication and Social Mobilisation, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), said: “Tuberculosis knowledge in Nigeria is low.
“With the current COVID-19 pandemic, this has actually impacted negatively on the initial health seeking behavior of most of our people, as well as the adherence to even those that have been placed on treatments.
“Many people are still very not aware of it, and some do not even believe that tuberculosis is real.
“The issue of myths and misconceptions has actually posed serious challenges about the transmission of the disease, and it is also actually affecting the health behaviour of people who are in the community.
“Even, the health workers themselves sometimes don’t actually believe in the transmission.
“Factors fueling the disease including discrimination, lack of proper and correct information and stigma and fear of association being associated with TB have prevented so many people from seeking treatments.’’
According to her, one case of untreated TB actually affects 15 more people within one year.
“Nigeria can see what that means for the country to have seen a huge number of TB patients, still in the community, not identified, or treated.
“We are only able to identify 26 per cent 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 per cent of the estimated cases that are still in the community.
“Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that every year, around 245,000 Nigerians die from TB, and about 590,000 new cases occur; of these, around 140,000 are also HIV-positive.
“Over the last decade, Nigeria still is struggling with increasing incidence of tuberculosis cases, and currently, there is no very effective vaccine to prevent TB,’’ she said.
Also, Dr Yahya Disu, Head of Risk Communication, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said that lessons from COVID-19 pandemic, including those from awareness and sensitisation should be leveraged and adapted for TB, to strengthen our health system.
“At all levels, we still need to strengthen our subnational level and build capacity.
“We want them to be able to also develop the messaging strategy capacity. We need this communication content to be tied as well as managing misinformation capacity to manage misinformation,” Disu said.
In his contributions, Dr Ayoola Olufemi, Deputy Director, Health Orientation and Communication, National Orientation Agency (NOA), said: “The problem is that the perception of tuberculosis in Nigeria is very low.
“COVID-19 came with a perception of a new disease that we do not know anything about, which can kill; because of this perception of COVID-19, everybody tried to seek more knowledge about COVID-19.
“When we look at the strategy used for COVID-19 with the emergency risk communication which involves bringing in all the stakeholders into ease, we need to apply that for TB.
“We need to use multiple channels; we must bring everybody together, bring all the stakeholders together with all the stem owners who are both government and private.
“We need to go off to an emergency, so that people can see that it can be more as dangerous as COVID-19.
“We must change the perception of tuberculosis in Nigeria to let people see that tuberculosis is still a problem, it can kill and it is endemic in Nigeria,” Olufemi said.
In his remarks, Mr Akin Jimoh of the Development Communications Network (Devcoms Network), enjoined the media to join forces to increase awareness on TB.
Jimoh also called for more human angle stories on TB so that people can feel the reality of the disease and its debilitating impact.
Nigeria records progress in HIV/AIDS response- Minister
The Federal Government says Nigeria has made huge progress in the HIV/AIDS response and is on the way to ending the disease by 2030.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa, disclosed this on Thursday during a media conference to mark the 2023 World AIDS Day.
The theme of the 2023 commemoration is “Let Communities Lead”.
Alausa also unveiled some National HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) policy documents which are meant to strengthen the existing framework for action, in order to reduce the spread of the diseases and manage their impact.
The Documents are National Guidelines for Viral Hepatitis Treatment and Care – 2023, Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) demand creation and scale-up-2023.
Others are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for PMTCT scale up, jingles in 10 languages for PMTCT scale-up – 2023 and IEC materials for HIV self-testing scale up – 2022
According to Alausa, the laudable progress in the response to the disease was made in the last two decades towards ending the epidemic by 2030.
“Nigeria with the current HIV treatment coverage above 90 per cent is well on course to meet this goal.
“Currently, Nigeria has 1.6 million People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) on treatment out of 1.9 million.”
He added that communities contribute to the HIV/AIDS response in numerous ways as their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind.
“We cannot achieve lasting progress in our battle against HIV/AIDS without the active involvement of our communities.
“Our communities and community structures are not merely recipients of care; they are champions of change, the catalysts for progress, and the backbone of our collective resilience. “
He also said that tremendous efforts that have been made by successive governments and other stakeholders to control the HIV epidemic by averting new transmission and improving lives cannot be over emphasised.
Alausa said that in November 2020, Nigeria joined a multi-country learning network “the HIV Coverage, Quality, and Impact Network (CQUIN)” under the leadership of the National AIDS and STIs Control Program.
This was with the aim of learning and sharing knowledge to support the coordination and scale- up of Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) for HIV in Nigeria.
He added that other means of progress have been through the scaling up of numerous interventions and services.
While giving an update on the state of HIV epidemics in Nigeria, the National Coordinator National AIDS, Viral Hepatitis and STIs Control Programme (NASCP), Dr Adebobola Bashorun, said there has been steady declines in annual HIV infections and AIDS related deaths.
He however said that out of the 1.9 million PLHIV, 270,000 had not been identified and that as at 2022, 159,923 estimated children aged zero to 14 years were living with HIV in Nigeria; making it one of the countries with the highest paediatric HIV burden globally.
“Also, 20,364 HIV exposed infants (HEIs) had Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) samples collected within two months of delivery, which translates to only 21 per cent EID coverage and a MTCT rate of 14 per cent at six weeks and 23 per cent through breastfeeding.
“96,517estimated HIV positive pregnant women who needed PMTCT, only 34 per cent were enrolled on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) in 2022.
“However, 50,676 children living with HIV (CLHIV) were on treatment in 2022 which represents 32 per cent of the estimated CLHIVs.”
Bashorun noted that in spite of the current efforts towards paediatric case finding and linkage to HIV treatment, many children remain undiagnosed and thus without access to life saving ART.
He added that it was critical to identify these children and initiate ART as early as possible.
On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control (ATM), Hon. Amobi Ogah, said that its very important for Nigeria to recommit to reducing foreign support to at least 50 per cent.
“We are not unmindful that over 90 per cent of funding for HIV/AIDS activities through programs in our country come from foreign partners.
“I therefore call on the Federal Government to look inwards in supporting domestic funding because it is high time we decide our fate and not be dependent on foreign aid which does not do us any good.”
He, however, assured that the legislature would work towards the increase of budgetary allocation to the fight against HIV/AIDS within the face of limited resources.
“We will also provide the legislative framework to protect the rights of people living with HIV and other forms of discrimination and stigmatisation”, he added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), Universal Health Coverage Cluster Lead, Dr Chavan Laxmikant, said that the gains recorded should be consolidated through the creation of enabling environments for community leadership, continued adoption of innovative approaches for HIV prevention, treatment and care.
“We call on the government of Nigeria and its partners to empower the communities to take up leadership by providing an enabling environment and addressing cross-cutting issues-punitive laws and policies, stigma and discrimination, gender inequality and violence that hinder the communities.”
The World AIDS Day is commemorated on Dec. 1 every year to raisee awareness about HIV/AIDS, show support to people living with HIV and remember those people who have lost their lives to the infection.
Nigeria records significant decline in HIV/AIDS transmission — FG
Dr Gambo Aliyu, the Director-General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), says Nigeria has recorded significant decline in the number of persons infected with HIV/AIDS.
He disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja on Friday, ahead of the 2023 World AIDS Day (WAD).
The WAD is a global observance, annually celebrated on Dec. 1 around the world to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic, caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who died of the disease.
The day has “Communities: Leadership to End AIDS by 2030” as its theme for 2023.
The NACA boss, therefore, said “Nigeria like many other countries has made significant strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but there is still much to be done to achieve the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
“Nigeria has the second largest burden of HIV infection. Currently, a total of 1.8 million persons are estimated to be living with HIV in the country, out of which, about 1.63 million are already on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), a lifesaving medication.
“Approximately, 58 per cent are estimated to be females, and 42 per cent are males.
“The national average Mother-To-Child Transmission rate of 22 per cent is driven by a large number of states with transmission rates above 25 per cent and few states with rates below 15 per cent.
“Nigeria is responsible for about 30 per cent of the world’s gap in Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).”
He said that the declining figure was achieved with the support of partners and global communities to prevent new infections, increase HIV awareness and knowledge and support those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.
He, however, stressed the need to address social and structural factors that drive the HIV epidemic.
“It is imperative that we confront these systemic inequalities head-on and work to ensure that all individuals have equal access to life-saving prevention, treatment and care services, as well as other social services available to Nigerians,” he said.
Dr Leo Zekeng, the Country Director of UNAIDS, who said that the UN body is committed
to continuous support to the Federal Government in eliminating HIV/AIDS, added that “we have made remarkable progress not only in Nigeria, but worldwide as about 30 million people are on treatment, which is remarkable.
“AIDS is no longer the deadly disease that it used to be, and those who are diagnosed with HIV but follow every rules and take the medication can live a normal life.”
On his part, Amobi Ogah, Chairman, House Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control (ARM), said the parliament was working toward increasing budgetary allocation to fight the disease in the country.
He said “we assure you that the National Assembly will work toward increasing budgetary allocation to the fight against HIV/AIDS in the face of limited resources.
“We will also provide the legislative framework to protect the rights of People Living with HIV and other forms of discrimination and stigmatisation.”
Mr Abdulkadir Ibrahim, the National Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), said that the theme of the 2023 WAD recognises the need for communities to support programmes and initiatives toward achieving the 2030 target of ending AIDS.
Ibrahim, who was represented by Mr James Atusue, urged communities to tackle obstacles standing in the way of providing HIV services to those who required them most.
He said “as a network, we continue to mobilise our community in solidarity, helping those living with HIV, and those affected by HIV to deal with stigma and discrimination, and support them to know existing services from the social and economic perspective.”
Minister unveils policy on mental health, suicide prevention
Co-ordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Ali Pate has unveiled the “National Mental Health Policy” and the “National Suicide Prevention Strategic Framework” in Abuja yesterday.
The Minister commended the team that worked on the policy documents noting that they had worked extensively and invested in it.
He further noted that the policy was a followup to the resolution at the #NCH64 to “Adopt and implement the National Suicide Prevention Strategic Framework in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT.”
“Good mental health, including emotional, psychological, and social well-being of every Nigerian is an essential factor in the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr President,” he explained.
The Minister promised to implement the policies by promoting understanding of mental health conditions and increasing access to healthcare for those who need it.
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