Will I be able to talk again? Is this how I will lose my voice and my ability to talk again?
These were the questions Mr Robert Darko, a Tuberculosis (TB) patient in his early thirties and a student in his second year at the tertiary level asked himself after battling a cough and sore throat, which affected his ability to communicate for months not knowing what was wrong with him.
The cough, he explained, started early September to December 2022, which took him to the hospital and was undertook HIV and TB tests, but all came out negative. Upon the results I was given; cough syrup was prescribed to treat the cough.
However, during the latter part of December, I visited my mum at Ada, and it was during my stay there that the situation worsened, and I was taken to various hospitals in the district and even herbal centers to seek treatment after taking several cough syrups, which did not help in getting cure.
My situation worsened so much that I started losing weight and the sore throat became severe that I could no longer take solid foods and my speech was no longer audible.
It was then that the Bator Health Center, in Ada where I was admitted, gave me a final referral to Tema General Hospital after conducting a series of tests to confirm I am TB positive.
I was fortunate not to have given up on seeking treatment because the herbalist I was taken to told me the sickness I am suffering from does not require hospital treatment but the kind of weakness I experienced after taking the medicine they gave me made my mum rush me to the hospital again.
Thankfully, after I was confirmed TB positive, the education I was given and the commitment I attached to taking my medication brought back my speech within two weeks, which is why I can grant this interview.
My sore throat has gone down drastically, and I am now able to eat solid foods.
Mr Darko’s experience is a prove that TB is real and treatable, indicating that and it is about time Ghanaians take the disease seriously to ensure they get a timely treatment when they have symptoms to prevent death especially as Ghana joins the rest of the global community to commemorate the 2023 World TB Day.
World TB Day, celebrated annually on March 24, is a day set aside to create awareness of the disease and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
The 2023 celebration, with the theme ‘Yes! We can end TB!’, aims to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increase investments, faster uptake of new World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic.
Tuberculosis is a potentially serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs. The bacteria that cause TB are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of TB include cough sometimes blood-tinged or mucus, chest pain, pain with breathing or coughing, fever, chills, night sweats, and weight loss.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO)74 million lives have been saved since 2000 by global efforts to end TB.
It said 10.6 million people in 2021 fell ill with TB and 1.6 million people died of TB within the same year.
Dr Rita Patricia Frimpong Amenyo, Deputy Programme Manager for National Tuberculosis Control Programme of the Ghana Health Service describes the disease as a major public health threat in Ghana and globally and one of the top 10 causes of death.
It is estimated that each day, over 4000 people lose their lives to TB across the world, and close to 30,000 fall ill with TB disease.
In Ghana, about 30 people lose their lives each day from TB and 125 people fall ill daily.
According to the TB burden estimate (WHO 2022 report) Ghana’s TB incidence is 45,000 out of which childhood TB is 6,500.
“The risk of TB in Ghana is high. TB anywhere is TB everywhere. We are all at risk. The good news is that TB is curable if we seek early treatment,” she stated.
The Programme Manager said due to the incidence of TB even though the celebration falls on March 24, year-long activities have been earmarked to raise awareness.
Dr Frimpong Amenyo explains that, for Ghana to end TB, there is the need to engage all institutions to advocate for political will against stigma and discrimination, urgent investment into TB resources, as well as deliberate efforts to provide diagnostic tools for diagnosis.
“We should try to avoid overcrowded rooms and ensure proper ventilation. TB patients should be encouraged to complete treatment rather than being ostracised” Dr Amenyo adds.
TB, she says, is a preventable and curable disease. Diagnosis and treatment are available free of charge in all public and accredited private health facilities.
TB is cured with effective drugs using the Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) approach. The treatment regimen is for six months. Patients take their medications in their community under the supervision of a treatment supporter who could be a community health officer, a relative of the patient or a volunteer. This strategy is known as community-based TB care.
Drug resistant TB is detected whenever a TB patient’s sample is observed to have resistance to any of the first line TB medicines. Various types of drug resistance occur such as mono and poly resistant TB. Most significant to the Programme is the occurrence of Rifampicin Resistance (resistance to Rifampicin alone or in combination with other medicines) and Multidrug Resistance (resistance to Isoniazid and Rifampicin together and in combination with other medicines).
Treatment of drug resistant TB is very difficult and expensive. Treatment lasts for 9-11 months. There is currently treatment for MDR that lasts for 6months. Medicines cost up to 100 times more than first line medicines ($25 compared with $2,500)
The Programme according to the Deputy Programme Manager, is challenged with low TB case detection, huge budget gaps, stigma, myths, and misconceptions about TB and called for all hands to be on desk to see Ghana free of TB