Jogging to the gym near his Jabi Abuja residence, Barnabas Ejeh encountered a small crowd listening to a few young people giving a talk at the junction near his street. As he slowed down to observe the scene and find out what was happening, the persistent cough he has had for a while started again, which made him stop. Just then, a pretty young lady said hello to him and introduced herself as Lucy Bukie, a Community Tuberculosis Worker working with Foundation for Family Values (FFVHOE), a Community Based Organisation in Abuja, working with ‘TB Network’. She asked him how many days his cough had lasted.
“I have been coughing for up to three weeks,, sometimes a few times a day. I don’t think it’s anything serious”, Barnabas said.
Lucy felt this presumptive case would be like that of the hundreds of people she had approached and tested for Tuberculosis (TB) that ended up testing negative, but her dedication to the TB Active Case Finding (ACF) initiative urged her on.
Lucy asked him calmly: “can you provide your sputum using the container I will give you, so that I can test you for Tuberculosis for free? Your persistent cough is one of the symptoms of TB.”
Barnabas obliged. She took the sputum sample to the GeneXpert Laboratory for AFB microscopy TB test. Two days later, she called and requested to see him. They met and after counseling him, Lucy told him he tested positive for Tuberculosis and that treatment is free in Nigeria due to the financial support of the Global Fund grant to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Nigeria. Lucy took him to the Tuberculosis ‘Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) centre at Maitama General Hospital in Abuja where Barnabas was enrolled and commenced his treatment immediately.
VIDEO – ARFH Success Story: “I Was Treated for Tuberculosis free of charge in Nigeria” – Barnabas Ejeh
Barnabas ensured he always honoured his appointment at the DOTS centre to take his drugs he was always welcomed. “The health workers were very kind to me. They tested me in the second month, in the fifth month, and after the test in the sixth month, they said I was free from TB, and they wrote ‘treatment completed’ on my card”, said Barnabas.
“I want to say a very big thank you to the TB Programme in Nigeria, Foundation for Family Values, Association for Reproductive and Family Health and the Global Fund for supporting the TB programme in Nigeria to provide free treatment to TB patients in Nigeria.”
Barnabas Ejeh was very grateful to the TB partners in Nigeria for saving his life and he encouraged other people to get tested for Tuberculosis.
“If you have been coughing for two weeks or more, go to a hospital and get tested. TB test and treatment is free in Nigeria”, he said.
Active Case Finding intervention is a key component of the 2015-2020 National Strategic plan for Tuberculosis (TB) control. It entails house-to-house visits by engaged community based organizations (CBOs) and community TB workers (CTWs) in overcrowded urban slums and areas with high burden of TB in 20 states of the federation. The objective of the house visits is to identify persons who may have symptoms of the disease but are yet to be tested. The intervention is currently being implemented in Nigeria as a component of the New Funding Model (NFM) Tuberculosis (GFATM) grant through the support of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH) is the principal recipient of the GFATM NFM grant to fight drug-susceptible TB in Nigeria. ARFH collaborates with the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Program (NTBLCP) in the design, implementation and evaluation of TB control activities in Nigeria.
ARFH has seven sub-recipients on the GFATM NFM TB grant. These organizations include NTBLCP, The Leprosy Mission Nigeria, German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Agency, Netherlands Leprosy Relief, Damien Foundation Belgium, Health Alive Foundation and Civil Society for the eradication of Tuberculosis in Nigeria (TB Network). Health Alive Foundation (HAF) and TB Network are directly responsible for the coordination of the active case finding intervention; HAF coordinates the intervention in the southern part of the country while TB Network coordinates in the northern states. Other sub-recipients support the active case finding intervention through the provision of ongoing technical assistance to the CBOs, facilities and laboratories involved in the implementation of the intervention. Similarly, World Health Organization (WHO) provides technical support to the organizations engaged to implement the active case finding intervention.
So far, 87 CBOs and 870 CTWs have been trained to implement the active case finding intervention in the communities engaged. The CTWs conduct house-to-house visits in the selected intervention areas; during these visits, they identify persons who may have been coughing for two weeks or more with or without other cardinal signs of TB. These persons are supported to provide their sputum specimen to the CTWs. CBOs ensure that the sputum specimen collected by the CTWs are transported to the laboratory centres where TB tests are conducted. Persons confirmed to have positive test results are supported to enroll for treatment in the Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) centres -treatment centres for Tuberculosis. It is important to mention that both diagnostic and treatment services for TB are free in public hospitals in Nigeria.