Prolonged treatment coupled with inability to eke out a living has worsened poverty levels among many TB patients in Kenya.
The fear of testing HIV positive among TB patients adds to their litany of woes hence the need for aggressive campaigns to reduce stigma among people infected with a diseases associated with overcrowding and poor hygienic conditions.
Leading health experts and advocates who spoke to Xinhua on Tuesday noted that TB HIV co-infection has spiked lately hence the need to devise solid treatment and care programs to manage the infectious diseases.
According to the Ministry of Health, TB remains the leading cause of death among HIV positive people in Kenya.
Several HIV positive people who contracted TB told Xinhua in Kisumu in Western Kenya that it has been a double tragedy to live with the two communicable diseases that are not only costly to treat but saps physical and emotional strength.
Fred Okoth Nyago, a 46-year-old resident of Kisumu County, said he discovered he had TB in the year 2006 after battling with a persistent dry cough for two weeks.
Nyago never imagined he could become a TB patient and at first opted to live in denial until his condition worsened.
Initially, he relied on anti-biotics to treat the persistent cough but registered minimal improvement.
Nyago’s close friend advised him to visit a health facility and test for TB after his condition deteriorated.
“I gathered courage and went to the New Nyanza Provincial General Hospital to get tested for TB and to my surprise I tested positive for the disease,” said Nyago.
After being diagnosed with TB, Nyago was put on a treatment regime that lasted eight months.
After completing the eight month drugs course, Nyago’s condition registered negligible improvement forcing him to undergo another test.
He became sickly in 2007 and medics diagnosed him with the dreaded Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR).
“At this juncture, I was put on drugs alongside injections to attack the vicious TB strain and enable me walk on my feet again,” Nyago told Xinhua.
He added that a HIV test conducted later as his condition worsened turned positive, but counselors urged him to remain hopeful since it was not a death sentence.
The doctors too advised Nyago to stick to a healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid alcohol so as to boost immunity.
“My wife who is a community health worker ensured that I took the anti-TB drugs as prescribed by the medics without defaulting. I got healed from the TB strain after sticking to the treatment regime without fail,” said Nyago.
Experts recently warned of a resurgence of TB HIV co-infection in Kenya due to inadequate access to proper treatment and care.
In Kisumu County, health officials noted that TB infections among people living with Aids have been on the increase.
Esther Anyango, the Kisumu East District TB Coordinator, emphasized those earlier diagnoses of TB for people living with the Aids virus is crucial to tame the disease’s virulence.
“Early diagnosis and treatment of TB among HIV positive individuals is very critical to forestall deaths,” Anyango said.
She added that early treatment will help reduce drug resistance among TB patients who are HIV positive.
Kenyan health advocates were emphatic on the need for the government to invest heavily on treatment of Multi Drug Resistant TB strain.
Evelyn Kibuchi, a senior program officer at Kenya Aids NGO Consortium (KANCO), regretted the country had recorded high number of deaths associated with the lethal TB strain common in HIV positive individuals.
“The people living with Aids and infected with TB should be put on a rigorous treatment regime to cushion them from untimely deaths,” Kibuchi said.
She urged the government to explore alternative sources of funding towards TB and Aids treatment in the light of declining support from external donors.
Should the financial assistance from the Global Funds declines, there is need to explore innovative financing mechanisms to address the challenge of Multi Drug Resistant TB,” said Kibuchi.
She underscored the role of political leadership to revitalize TB treatment and management in the country. Tuberculosis is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacterium known as Micro bacterium tuberculosis bacillus.
Researchers noted that Pulmonary and extra pulmonary TB strains are widespread in developing countries grappling with overcrowding in cities. Enditem