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Private Sector Calls for Prompt TB Testing

Figure above: Innovative community sputum testing  for tuberculosis by a private sector health  provider in progress in Sokoto State, Nigeria. 

As the world marks World Tuberculosis Day, private sector tuberculosis service providers have called on the public to utilize free tuberculosis testing and treatment services being provided with support from the Global Fund.

Health care providers in faith-based organizations, private hospitals, community pharmacies and patent medicine stores said that prompt investigation of cough will address the gaps in finding and treating tuberculosis.

Medical Director of Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, Aba, Dr Uchechukwu Elekwa, said that most tuberculosis cases are missed because, “we see cough and tag it as just another upper respiratory tract infection. There should be prompt investigation for tuberculosis and if positive, patients should begin medication immediately.”

He lauded the Public Private Mix (PPM) project funded by the Global Fund and implemented by Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), with Caritas Nigeria as one of the sub-recipients.

The project is being implemented in 21 states in the country to rapidly increase the contribution of the private sector in finding tuberculosis cases.

“So far, TB program in my hospital has been a success. In the past two years, we have identified 521 suspected tuberculosis cases, confirmed 113 out of them as positive, and started them on treatment,” he said.

Patent Medicine Vendor, Eze Ebere Obianuju has identified 91 suspected tuberculosis cases and linked 17 confirmed cases for treatment. When people go to her store, she asks them if they have been coughing for more than two weeks.

“When they come to my shop for medicine, I make sure I screen them thoroughly and call the LGA officers to link them up for proper treatment,” she said.

Laboratory Focal Person at New Era Hospital in Abia State, Mr Ewakwe Uche, said that his hospital has identified tuberculosis cases among people living with HIV.

“Through participation in the PPM project, we have treated 86 people for tuberculosis. When PLHIV come for HIV services, we also give tuberculosis services to the clients. My advice to other hospitals is that they should collaborate to detect and treat tuberculosis,” he said.

IHVN Program Manager Tuberculosis, Dr Taofeekat Ali, noted that the Global Fund PPM project has engaged over 2,700 private-for-profit and faith-based organizations.

“We know that statistically, at least 60% of the populace visit the private sector to access health care. We have been able to expand services under this project with more private facilities offering tuberculosis services. We have also trained them and provided tools for TB service provision. IHVN has been working with the National TB and Buruli Ulcer Control Programme (NTBLCP) and all stakeholders to move this project forward,” she said.

Since IHVN was selected as the Principal Recipient of the Global Fund PPM project in 2019, the Institute has worked with other organizations to place more than 32,000 tuberculosis clients on treatment.