The Aurum Institute Ghana, a public benefit not-for-profit organization, in collaboration with its partners, has set up a symbolic lighting at the National Theatre in Accra to commemorate the 2019 World TB Day.
Dr Nii Nortey Hanson-Nortey, the Country Director of Aurum Institute, said the monument lighting of the National Theatre was to show solidarity with all the people suffering from Tuberculosis (TB), and also those who had died from the disease.
He stated that the annual commemoration on March 24, to create global awareness, was very important owing to the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB and the need to step up efforts to end the epidemic worldwide.
Dr Hanson-Nortey said TB was among the top 10 killer diseases, and although could be cured, many had lost and continue to lose their lives due to the low level of awareness.
He said it was estimated that about 30,000 Ghanaians were living with TB, but did not know they were infected, and a person could easily infect close to 15 persons per year.
Yet most of those persons were missing among the huge population, he said, with no chances of getting treatment.
He said the year’s theme: “It’s Time,” put the accent on the urgency to act on the commitments made by global leaders at the UN High-Level meeting in New York, to scale up access to prevention and treatment.
They are also to build accountability; ensure efficiency and sustainable financing for research; promote and end stigma and discrimination; as well as ensure equitable, right-based and people-centred TB response.
Dr Hanson-Nortey said it was time to join hands to end the scourge by enhancing advocacy and education, and encouraging all to get tested to know their status.
He said TB treatment was free and that Ghana had the best treatment outcomes, with machines and equipment such as the GeneXpert and laboratories with highly qualified human resources.
Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah, the Chairman of the Health Committee and the TB Caucus in Parliament, called on all Ghanaians to get tested to know their status in order to access the appropriate treatment, which was free.
He flagged the issue of stigma and discrimination against persons living with TB, as well as the negative perceptions about the disease being a result of a curse or demonic spirits, saying “these are major challenges towards its elimination, as people go into hiding rather than reporting to health facilities.”
He stressed that the whole world was now working towards ending TB, and Ghana would not relent on its efforts to eliminate the disease too, and indicated that the National Health Insurance Scheme also covered other diseases and infections that were diagnosed with patients undergoing treatment.
Dr Twum-Nuamah, who is also the Member of Parliament for Berekum East, called upon his colleague legislators to join in the campaign by encouraging all traditional authorities and family heads, as well as community volunteers to intensify their search for the lost TB cases across their communities for effective treatment.
Chief Austin Arinze Obiefuna, the Executive Director of Afro Global Alliance, called for the need to do things differently, and that the media must intensify their advocacy and public education on TB with passion, to halt the stigma and discrimination.
This, he said, would embolden people to go for voluntary testing to know their status and effectively seek treatment.