Poverty is a determinant of successful treatment or not of tuberculosis (TB). A Uganda TB survivor, for example, narrated how while at a government hospital she and her fellow patients had to fend for themselves, food wise.
The long distances from home to the facility where they were isolated made it difficult for their families to afford the costs to travel to and from the hospital in order to care for the patients. According to the TB survivor, she gave up and went back home before the treatment was completed.
Moreover, whereas, the Government of Uganda (GoU) gives out TB treatment free of charge to patients, nevertheless, the costs for TB treatment are huge. According to experts at the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Programme (NTLP) it costs US$ 4,000 (12 million shillings) to treat one patient with multi drug resistant TB; and US$ 80 (240 thousand shillings) to treat one who is drug susceptible.
The annual Uganda national budget allocation for medicine, lab reagents and operational costs for the effective diagnosis and treatment of TB should be to the tune of at least 11 billion shillings, experts at the NTLP estimate.
For the year 2013, for example, the GoU provided less than six billion shillings for TB control and medicines, according to experts at the NTLP. Insufficient funding for the diagnosis and treatment of TB arguably facilitates the vicious cycle that has sustained the disease in the Country.
Uganda’s TB burden, moreover, exacerbates the Country’s HIV and AIDS burden. Researchers have found that if you are a TB patient in Uganda you are seven times more likely to have HIV and AIDS than when you don’t have TB.
By Ms. Norah Owaraga, Managing Director CPAR Uganda Ltd; and a Cultural Anthropologist researching tuberculosis in Uganda.