In the heart of Nigeria, a silent war rages against a formidable foe: Tuberculosis. Despite global commitments and efforts, the nation finds itself grappling with the highest burden of TB infection in Africa, making it one of the eight countries contributing to two-thirds of the world’s TB cases.

Ishola Adams, a resilient 26-year-old English graduate, emerged from the shadows to share her 15-month-long battle with TB. Her journey began with the subtle onset of weakness and a persistent cough after giving birth. Misdiagnosed with malaria and typhoid fever, Adams faced a harrowing experience, spending over N420,000 on lung surgery and medications to mend the damage inflicted by TB.

The World Health Organization defines TB as an infectious disease affecting the lungs, transmitted through the air when infected individuals cough, sneeze, or spit. Astonishingly, TB stands as the 13th leading cause of death globally, surpassing even the formidable HIV/AIDS.

Nigeria, unfortunately, occupies the sixth position in the global TB tally, contributing 4.4% to the total cases. Despite commitments to treat over a million people with TB and place over two million others on preventive therapy, the road to eradication remains elusive.

Adams, having survived a relapse and lung surgery, emphasises the critical importance of early intervention. Her story unfolds as a stark reminder that TB, often overshadowed by other health crises, demands attention.

In another corner of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ibrahim, living with HIV for two years, discovers the dual burden of TB. Neglecting his HIV treatment for a few months led to a spike in his viral load, rendering him susceptible to TB. His experience underscores the intricate relationship between HIV and TB, with TB being the leading cause of death among people with HIV.

Ibrahim faced not just a physical battle but also societal discrimination. The public’s discernible reactions to his weight loss and persistent cough mirrored the stigma attached to TB patients.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS emphasises that ending TB can save millions of lives and lift people out of poverty. Yet, the journey to eradication remains challenging, with millions still succumbing to the disease.

As 2030, the UN’s deadline for global TB eradication approaches, Nigeria stands at a crossroads. The stories of Adams and Ibrahim echo the urgent need for a robust healthcare system, destigmatisation, and public awareness to combat this infectious killer.

In the face of adversity, Adams encourages fellow Nigerians not to shy away from seeking help and emphasises the crucial role of consistent medication. As the nation navigates this crisis, it’s a collective call to action – to break the silence surrounding TB and pave the way for a healthier future for all.

Reference: Iremeka C. Our battles with stigma, self-denial almost killed us – TB survivors [Internet]. Punch Newspapers. Punch Newspaper; 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 20]. Available from: https://punchng.com/our-battles-with-stigma-self-denial-almost-killed-us-tb-survivors/

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