Thursday, March 24, 2016

Uganda Cares celebrates World TB day: It is Curable

By Esther Nakkazi

As the world celebrates World Tuberculosis Day today, 24 March 2016, I am one of the tweeps at Uganda Cares, which is a partnership between Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and the Uganda Ministry of Health (MOH) to provide antiretroviral therapy.

The theme for the day is 'United to end TB: Find, Treat, Cure'. We have Dr. Augustine Lubanga the training manager of Uganda Cares and Dr. John Ssali,  national medical director Uganda cares as panelists talking about Tuberculosis in Uganda.

We have also heard from two former TB patients who have been healed. So TB is curable. It costs about $200 to treat a patient with uncomplicated TB in Uganda but there are usually drug stock outs in the country.

George William has been treated twice from TB by Uganda Cares. Here is his testimony; “When I came to Uganda Cares I was diagnosed with HIV and later with TB in 2006. I used the drugs the first time and they assured me that I was healed of TB. In 2011, I was told that the virus is back and I was quarantined in Entebbe. They checked me after 8 months and told me I was okay. In 2015 I came back to Uganda Cares and they sent me for check up and they found that I was with TB. Its now 6 months but I have been assured that the virus has gone.”

However, George William has issues with the big TB tablets. Experts say the big tablet encourages patients to take it and it has three drugs in it anyway.

“I got problems with taking these drugs. I would feel dizzy but gradually my body got used to it. I have been active in taking these drugs. I still have some itching in the throat but it is now better.”

Another former TB patient Rose Nabasirye was diagnosed with TB in August last year. “Two weeks into taking the drugs I started feeling better. I used to swallow my drugs diligently. They advised me to remove my eating utensils from the rest of the family. I cover my mouth with a handkerchief when I cough. Now I feel better. I have been fasting sometimes but even then the drugs did not treat me badly. ”

World wide, 9 percent of people diagnosed with TB die during treatment, 27 percent stop working, 73 are hospitalised and 37 percent require home isolation.

Uganda ranks 18th out of the 22 countries responsible for all the TB cases in the world. The people who are most at risk are those who have been infected with TB before like George William, people with HIV and those suffering from diabetes, cancer and malnourished. Those who live in congested areas like slums are also at risk.

According to Dr. Ssali, the risk of getting infected with TB is twice as high for people with HIV. But Uganda suffers from numerous TB drugs stock outs and then it culminates to drug resistance.

Dr. Augustine Lubanga says TB screening should be extended to the lower level health facilities including health centre II and better technologies should be adopted. Patients should also be encouraged to adhere to treatment to avoid MDR-TB that is also high in Uganda.

Treatment for TB is now takes a shorter period. It is not 6 months from 8 months for uncomplicated TB says Amos Kasembeli a pharmacist. MDR-TB treatment takes about 24 months.

Follow up should also be emphasised and there should be increased case finding emphasised Dr. Ssali.

Since 1990, Uganda has had 2.2 million TB illnesses and 900,000 TB deaths. In 2014, there were 61,000 cases of TB in Uganda and 11,000 deaths. But overall, since 1990 the number of TB cases has almost been halved and deaths fallen by 70 percent.

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