The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, flagged off a Gene-Xpert Laboratory at the Kunchingoro Primary Healthcare Model Centre, Abuja on Friday to commemorate the World Tuberculosis (TB) Day.
Mr. Adewole said the Federal Ministry of Health took the strep in partnership with international donors as a way of achieving this year’s TB Day theme, tagged “Accelerating TB case findings in Nigeria”.
He said this administration through the Federal Ministry of Health and in collaboration with partners has taken some bold steps to control tuberculosis in Nigeria.
“Some of these steps we embarked on is introducing the use of the Gene-Xpert MTB/RIF technology as the primary diagnostic tool for TB among all presumptive TB cases in the country including People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
“This is expected to increase the number of TB cases notified in the country. We have scaled up the number of facilities providing GeneXpert services from seven health facilities in 2011 to 318 facilities in 2016; and efforts are still ongoing to scale up more facilities in 2017 to achieve the target of having one machine per LGA across the country,” he added.
Nigeria has 774 local government areas.
John Osho, the Programme Manager, TB Global Fund project of the Association of Reproductive and Family Health, ARFH, said there is a need to do more in the search for unreported TB cases in Nigeria so as to prevent a possible spread.
Nigeria is currently ranked fourth in the world and first in Africa among countries with high prevalence of the killer disease.
Mr. Osho said the ARFH has been supporting the fight against TB through international donations from Global Fund.
“Detection is very low, we had about 15 per cent. Out of the 36,000 PHC’S in Nigeria we have DOT centres in 6,000 across the country. What we are currently doing is house to house campaign and screening of people for TB and we are currently working in 187 slums in Nigeria,” he said.
The 2016 TB prevalence statistics from the World Health Organisation for Nigerian estimate 322 tuberculosis cases per 100,000 people and it is commonly found in slums, among refugees, prisoners, people with poor income among others.
The Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire, said there is a need to bring TB screening and awareness to the grassroots to encourage and educate people on where to get tests done when they suspect the disease especially if the person has been coughing for more than two weeks.
“We need to make people aware of test and treatment centre as treatment is free. Nigeria is one of the highest burdened countries. Currently Sokoto has the estimated highest prevalence cases in Nigeria with 127 TB cases per 100,000 in 2016.”
Clement Adesigbin, a medical expert on TB at the National Tuberculosis Leprosy Centre Zaria, said there is a need to do more in searching out new TB cases in the country.
“The mandate given to us as a centre is to search for new TB cases and we have been doing so but we can’t say we have recorded much success because most of these cases are yet to be detected”, he said.
He urged the government to get more involved in the awareness campaign on tuberculosis in order to be able to locate the missing cases in the country for treatment
Mr. Osho said TB treatment in Nigeria is free, so also is the test; but there is a need for more focus and funding of the killer disease
“HIV and TB are conjoin twins with TB more deadly, but the awareness and funding of this epidemic is lower. The government should get more involved in the campaign against the disease especially in terms of screening as this will help curb the menace from spreading”, he said.