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FG tasks youths in fight against tuberculosis

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Youth advocacy could lead to more cases being identified and treated.

The federal government has called upon young people to utilise their social media presence and personal influence in raising awareness about the risks of undiagnosed and untreated tuberculosis. Recognising the potential impact of this tech-savvy demographic, the government believes that they hold a unique ability to effectively educate their peers and fellow Nigerians on TB prevention and treatment. During a TB advocacy meeting with young volunteers, Dr Jamila Amin, Head of Advocacy and Social Mobilisation at the National TB and Leprosy Control Programme under the Federal Ministry of Health, emphasised the need for innovative strategies in creating awareness about TB in local communities.

Dr Amin called upon the youth volunteers to use their voices in the battle against the spread of TB, explaining that their advocacy could lead to more cases being identified and treated, ultimately stopping the cycle of new infections. She emphasised that young people, being the most active age group, have the ability to make a significant impact due to their mobility. Their lack of engagement in seeking healthcare services is a key focus for them, as they believe that by reaching this particular group, they can make significant progress in reducing the overall impact of TB.

Dissemination of accurate information will curb its transmission.

They desire to assist in spreading awareness to those who have not been reached. Recognising their high level of engagement in social media and communication channels, they are encouraged to utilise these platforms to educate their peers and the general Nigerian population about TB. By leveraging their influence, they hope to disseminate accurate information about the disease, increase awareness, and ultimately curb its transmission by reaching a wider audience and encouraging more individuals to seek care.

Deborah Ogwuche-Ikeh, the Executive Director of Debriche Health Development Centre in Nigeria , stated that her advocacy group is focused on harnessing the energy and mobility of young individuals to tackle the obstacles in eliminating TB in Nigeria. She highlighted the lack of awareness among the population regarding the treatability, curability, and preventability of the disease, with only 30% of people recognising the signs and symptoms of TB. Overcoming this immense challenge is crucial for their mission.

Many Nigerians continue to hold misconceptions about TB.

Young people must be mobilised and empowered to become advocates in order to play a crucial role in today’s society. Utilising the energy and influence of the youth, along with their advocacy, is crucial in addressing these issues. Dr. Bertrand Odume from KNCV Nigeria emphasised the ongoing struggle with stigma as a major obstacle to receiving adequate TB treatment. It is concerning that in 2024, a significant number of Nigerians continue to hold misconceptions about TB, viewing it as untreatable and linked to supernatural beliefs.

Speaking further, he explained that the assumption mentioned has caused significant stigma, alienation, and humiliation of individuals with such cases, resulting in their reluctance to reveal their illness and seek medical assistance or intervention. He also noted that today’s youth, who are heavily engaged in social media, are aware of the preventability of TB. Utilising social media influencers could, therefore, be an effective strategy to overcome the impediments preventing individuals from accessing healthcare services and guidance.

Related Article: Nigeria losing health workers to tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. However, it can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. The effects of tuberculosis can vary depending on the severity of the infection and how quickly it is diagnosed and treated. It primarily affects the respiratory system, causing symptoms such as a persistent cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, it can lead to coughing up blood or phlegm.

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