By Rachel Horner and Kevin Hill
The Ministry of health is intensifying efforts to increase access to treatment of Tuberculosis (TB), but stigma is still a problem in the fight against the diseases.
Programme Manager of National Leprosy and Tuberculosis Programme in Sierra Leone Dr. Foday Dafae said, since 2004 the ministry has registered almost 30,000 new cases of TB. This increase is seen as a success of efforts to get people into diagnosis and treatment centers, and the high levels of successful treatment.
“However, stigma is still a problem. Family members abandon their relatives who are admitted to our centers. We admit these people for them to be administered with the drugs regularly without any interval so that they can get better” Dr Dafae said.
He said it is quite unfortunate that their relatives abandon them as a patient’s morale is boosted whenever they see their family.
Alimamy Kroma, a Freetown resident who has been cured of TB said, when he was initially infected with the disease he was treated poorly. Only after a lot of work by doctors and care takers to sensitize his family to the stigma of those affected by TB did he later feel the family love.
“I was disheartened by the treatment I received from my family even my wife but thanked God when they where able to be educated about the disease” he said.
Dr Dafae who was speaking to Journalist in commemoration of World Tuberculosis Day said Sierra Leone is celebrating the lives and stories of people affected by TB through an ongoing campaign called ‘I Am Stopping TB’. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the air, from person to person. It can be fatal but, through appropriate treatment, is curable.
Dr Dafae noted that if a person has constant coughing over a long period of time he or she should go for check up. The three week intensive treatment regimen can help save lives. He said the country has over 80 diagnosis centers and the treatment is free of charge.
“We have personnel who check on our clients in their homes, whenever they are absent from treatment,” he said, which has contributed to a jump in the treatment’s success rate, from 75% in 2004 to 87% in 2007.
He calls on the public to educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of the disease, to know when to come in for diagnosis and to ensure that efforts to tackle the disease continue.