World Tuberculosis Day is celebrated globally on the 24th day of March of every year. Since its’ bacterium discovery in 1882, the celebration reminds us that the TB epidemic is a disease that needs active participation and collaboration of everyone to combat.
The theme of World TB Day 2023 states: “Yes! We can end TB”- indicates the importance of reflecting on the progress made in the fight against TB and considering the challenges that remain.
According to World Health Organization, WHO, Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze, or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected. With proper treatment, which involves a combination of antibiotics for at least six months, TB can be treated. While poverty and malnutrition can increase the risk of TB, anyone can get TB regardless of their social or economic status.
However, Tuberculosis mostly affects adults in their most productive years but all age groups are at risk. Over 80% of cases and deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. WHO reported that People who are infected with HIV are 16 times more likely to develop active TB. The risk of active TB is also greater in persons suffering from other conditions that impair the immune system. People with under nutrition are 3 times more at risk. Globally in 2021, there were 2.2 million new TB cases that were attributable to undernutrition.
“Women with disabilities in Africa when properly and judiciously included in all the development agendas such as New Partnership for African Development NEPAD, and UN-SDGs 20230 among others will no doubt contribute meaningfully to bringing change to their communities, and Africa. There are several women with Disabilities in Africa with special and unique gifts, doing great things in different fields of human endeavors, waiting for any opportunity to be called upon to contribute to national development, but sadly they never get the opportunity. Millions of these women with disabilities only needed a little push in the form of an incentive to live out their dreams of playing a part in the development of their society.”
She calls out a clarion call for the different governments in Africa to think inclusion, act inclusion, and make inclusion work for women with disabilities. She believes that African countries can maximize their potential when all section of their population is not left behind. She adds an Igbo adage that says, “Nwanyi Buife,” when translated to English means women are assets.
She concludes with this: ” I, therefore, join other women in leadership to call for action towards inclusive policy-making, the involvement of women with disabilities in decision-making, and the creation of an enabling environment for more women with disabilities to participate in the government at all levels, as well as in both public and private sectors. I make bold to say today as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 that, “Women with disabilities” contributions to African development matter and should be made a priority by the governments of Africa.”
To address these challenges, the general public needs to render support to people living with TB, by providing emotional support to them and fighting stigma and discrimination against people living with TB. The government should adequately invest in TB research and prevention and ensure that diagnosis and treatment services are available to all who need them in their primary healthcare center.
Additionally, it is important to address the social determinants of TB, such as poverty and inequality, which contribute to the spread of the disease.
In conclusion, World Tuberculosis Day is an important reminder of the progress that has been made in the fight against TB, as well as the challenges that remain. As we celebrate this day, let us renew our commitment to ending the TB epidemic, and work towards a world where TB is no longer a threat to public health. Let us inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic. Yes! We can end TB!