In 2016, CPAR Uganda had the privilege to conduct qualitative research on the tuberculosis (TB) pandemic in Uganda. As we prepared our data collection tools and made determinations of our research maps – population for our study and the sample of study respondents, our attention was drawn to learning that we had prior taken for granted.
One such major learning we had taken for granted is the fact that doctors working in Uganda find that a major challenge in tackling TB in Uganda is how to cure ignorance about the disease. According to doctors, people don’t readily and consciously know what the symptoms of TB are, for example. This is baffling, for one would imagine, that since TB has been with us now for decades and is killing Ugandans in the thousands, all Ugandans should be consciously aware of what the symptoms of TB are.
A participant at the CPAR Uganda TB high level policy workshops in 2016 in Gulu. The workshops were attended by 47 participants, including politicians, technocrats and health professionals representing and or working in Greater Northern Uganda. The Guest of Honour was Hon. Betty Aol Ocan, Women Member of Parliament.
Why is it that Ugandans are not consciously aware of TB symptoms?
And, moreover, such ignorance about the disease invariably fuels stigma; and which stigma may interfere with healthcare seeking behaviour, as well as healthcare service provision – health workers and caregivers fearing the patient and or discriminating against the patient.
TB takes a long duration to be cured and during which time the patient has to take very strong medication which requires the patient to eat a sufficient food and that is nutritionally balanced. Many TB patients, the majority of whom are poor, have to fend for themselves, food wise. And man times they fail to succeed in providing food for themselves. Consequently, they may prematurely give up treatment, which may be the cause of the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains of the disease.
Why is it that this status quo is allowed to prevail in Uganda?