From Abel Leonard, Lafia

Stakeholders at a one-day public discussion on Tuberculosis (TB) have advocated community collective effort in tackling stigmatisation of those infected with the disease.

They made the call in separate interviews on the sidelines of a public discussion on Tuberculosis held Bingham University in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.

Sun reports that the one day discussion is organised by “Lighthouse Consortium”, a global health research programme consisting several countries, including Nigeria.

The event is in commemoration of the 2024 World Tuberculosis Day held annually on March 24, with the theme “Community Voices: A discussion with people impacted by TB”.

He noted that due to its stigmatisation, there was always a delay to access care and also affected people even after they had been given care.

“The root cause of stigma in tuberculosis is lack of adequate knowledge and awareness and when people hear someone is infected, the first thing is self-preservation.

“They want to stay away from that person or stigmatise the person when in reality we know that once people with tuberculosis begin the right treatment, the possibility of transmission to others is very minimal,” he said.

He, therefore, advocated a collective community effort in changing the narrative on the mindset towards people living with tuberculosis.

Adekeye also urged communities to give them support and encourage those with symptoms to come out for proper diagnosis.

“For us at Lighthouse, we will continue to increase awareness on stigma, how it affects the health status of people who are affected by tuberculosis and the impact it has on the individuals.

“We hope that with all these efforts on awareness including an aggressive collective community effort and improved care and services, we hope that we can reduce stigma in the TB space,” he said.

Adekeye added that Lighthouse Consortium also prioritise gender transformative TB care and services in Nigeria, whereby more men get care and treatment.

According to him, many are affected by tuberculosis but fewer men access care and services for different reasons.

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He said, “So Lighthouse Consortium, our focus is to meet men in innovative ways to increase access to TB care and services.”

Adekeye, also a lecturer at Bingham University, lauded the management of the institution for supporting the initiative.

Also speaking, Miss Zainab Ibrahim, a participant and a tuberculosis victim, also called for community effort, especially in rural areas through community health workers.

She said community workers could help in spreading the sensitisation on tuberculosis and how to eradicate stigmatisation of the infection.

“There should be more focus in the villages because many people do not know much about tuberculosis.

“This can also lead to wrong conclusions leading to stigmatisation of not just the infected person but also their families.

“Health workers need to go to the villages, engage in collective community awareness, so that if one notices any symptoms, he or she can go to the health centre for treatment knowing that it is treatable,” she added.

Mr Abayomi Abiola, another participant, lauded the organisers of the one day discussion on Tuberculosis for a well educative programme.

“Just like me, a lot of participants have been well educated and sensitised on tuberculosis, most especially on the need not to stigmatise those infected with it as it is not a death sentence.

“We have come to understand that tuberculosis can be treated. Also getting tested and treatment are free.

“Aside that, we learnt that after two weeks proper treatment, those infected can hardly infect others.

“So if we put all that information out to the pubic via a joint effort, stigmatisation will drastically reduce,” he said.

Sun reports that TB is a potentially serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs and the bacteria that cause TB are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

World Tuberculosis Day is observed March 24, every year and designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of TB and efforts to eliminate it.