In order to make significant progress in the fight against Tuberculosis (TB), experts have urged government at all levels to increase TB case finding in Nigeria.
The experts gave the advice during the TB media roundtable on the theme: “Impact of COVID-19 on TB: Challenges and Opportunities for Service Delivery, Policy and Financing” held in Abuja on Monday.
Speaking at the event, the chairman, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Ayodele Awe, said there is need for rapid progress in TB case finding as case detection is still between 24 per cent and 27 per cent.
Mr Awe noted that the coronavirus pandemic has affected other health issues in the world including TB.
“COVID-19 has negatively affected the TB programme this year because we have not made as much progress in finding TB cases,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 27 million people globally, has disrupted human activities and overshadowed other health issues across the globe.
TB is one of the vaccine-preventable killer diseases, which is also curable.
Nigeria remains one of the 30 countries globally with the highest burden of the disease. Nigeria also ranks first in Africa with the highest number of undetected cases.
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).
A recent report by the Global Fund indicated that annual deaths toll from HIV, TB and malaria could be set back to levels not seen since the peak of the epidemic, wiping out nearly two decades of progress in the worst-hit regions.
The National Coordinator of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Adebola Lawanson, noted that there has not been sufficient progress made in TB case finding due to COVID-19
She said that TB, like other diseases, has been worst hit during this period due to resource relocation and realignment for COVID-19.
She explained that the lack of access to health facilities during the lockdown period contributed to the increase in TB cases in the country.
“There is an increase in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis as the impact of COVID-19 affected health facilities, monitoring and drug supervision for TB patients, while health care workers were not willing to carry out TB case finding,”.
She said the community approach in combating COVID-19, which entails contact tracing, will be effectively adopted in tracing TB patients.
The Country Director, USAID Health Policy Plus Project, Francesca Ilika, said that state ownership of TB is critical to controlling the disease in Nigeria.
She called for the inclusion of TB in State Health Insurance Schemes for proper management of the deadly disease.
“Domestic resource mobilisation is key and from the COVID-19 experience, we need to stimulate private sector investment in TB while external funding needs to be increased.
“The use of gene expert machines for TB test has strengthened the molecular laboratories but we need to buy more gene expert machines for increase in testing,” She said.
The focal person for TB at the Institute for Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Aderonke Agbaje, said there was a need to assess the human resources for health, both at the federal and state levels.
She said this will ensure diseases like TB and other health issues are not being placed at the back burner in the country’s response to COVID-19.