By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
The National Director of the Civil Society Movement Against Tuberculosis Sierra Leone (CISMAT-SL), Abdul Sesay, has intimated SPECIMEN that Multi Drug Resistance Tuberculosis (MDR) is presently on the increase in Sierra Leone.
“This ailment is affecting patients who have since stopped to take their drugs,” he disclosed, adding that the possibility MDR to spread is very high.
He said with the advent of the Ebola outbreak about 500 patients stopped to report for treatment and that for the purpose of addressing the problem the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and concerned stakeholders should now begin contact tracing and door to door services.
“More than 2 billion people, equally to one-third of the world’s population are affected with TB. Out of this, 1 in 10 will go on to develop TB during their lifetime. Out of the overall 13 million TB cases in 2013, 9 million were new cases but consistently 3 million people were not diagnosed, not treated, or officially not registered by national TB programmes (NTPs),” he said.
Sesay said in Sierra Leone, the outbreak of the Ebola virus in May 2014, many health facilities particularly TB facilities (DOTs Centers) have been very inefficient in providing services related to TB patients.
A TB patient who preferred anonymity said she stopped to receive her TB treatment in 2014 and now relies on self-medication.
“A man who was suffering from TB was taken to the Ebola center because the people said he was suffering from Ebola. He later died in the center,” she said, adding that that situation made her to be cautious in her community.
She also claimed that some of the people she knew were suffering from TB died during the Ebola period and that she believed their deaths were as a result of lack of medication.
“We are appealing to the Government to look into our situation and intervenes now,” she said, disclosing that the cost for TB scanning at the Connaught Hospital is Le50, 000 and that the majority of patients cannot afford to pay.
“Before now, the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NLTCP)
has been challenged in the provision of effective TB services and treatment to people living with and affected by TB. Ebola has claimed and is still claiming the lives of thousands of Sierra Leoneans and TB patients are currently facing huge challenges in accessing TB treatment and services as symptoms of TB are similar to that of Ebola which is making it more difficult for TB patients to access TB treatment and services,” Sesay noted.
He also said many of the patients who are on TB treatment are now refusing to go for their TB drugs as a result of stigma, discrimination including myth around Ebola, adding that one of the many challenges facing TB patients in the country, especially the poor, is the cost for TB scanning at the Connaught Hospital.
“People are being neglected and they are dying slowly,” he reiterated.
Most people are living faraway from Direct Observation Treatment Centers (DOTs) and the cost associated with transport fare hinders their treatment, adding that presently there are only 126 DOTs centers in the country.
According to Global TB Report, 1.5 million people died each year as a result of Tuberculosis, and in Sierra Leone, there is yet no standard figure to the number of deaths.