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More HIV negative people infected with TB in Gulu

A lab technician doing tests. FILE PHOTO OXFORD UN MEDIA

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More HIV negative persons are contracting Tuberculosis (TB) than HIV-positive patients in Gulu District and Gulu City, Health officials have revealed.

Whereas people with HIV are up to 50 times more likely to develop TB in a given period of time, analysis on HIV and TB co-infection at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital paints a different picture.

TB is a disease that usually attacks the lungs but can affect almost any part of the body. It is spread from an infectious person to a vulnerable person through the air.

Joseph Okello, a Clinician at the TB Unit in Gulu Regional Referral Hospital says 60 percent of clients enrolled in TB treatment at the facility are HIV negative. He says 40 percent of their clients are patients living with HIV.

Okello notes that the variation needs more study to be undertaken to understand comprehensively the driving factors.

He however says 70 percent of the TB patients are middle-aged men and smokers. Okello highly suspects their lifestyles coupled with their exposures to bacteria from TB patients could be the link to their increased risks of contracting the disease.

Last year, the TB unit at the facility registered 253 cases of susceptible TB and 14 drug-resistant TB.

According to Okello, they currently have 153 susceptible TB patients actively on treatment and another 15 drug-resistant TB. 96 of the susceptible cases were registered from January this year alone according to Okello.

He is however worried over the rising numbers of multi-drug resistant TB strains as a result of inconsistent and inadequate treatment practices by patients. Okello notes that it is costly to treat a patient with MDR-TB.

Angwaro Margaret, who is in-charge of TB unit at the Hospital says non-adherence to TB treatment still remains a hurdle in ensuring a 100 percent cure rate among TB patients.

She says they have for over the years failed to trace some of the patients who had been enrolled on treatment for TB and attributes it to the long treatment duration and burden of taking medication, especially HIV-positive patients.

According to records from the hospital, seven patients died from susceptible TB while one died from MDR-TB last year. In 2020, four patients enrolled on MDR died.

At least three patients enrolled on TB treatment from the facility have died between January and March this year alone.

Health officials say with already 96 cases of susceptible TB registered this year from the Hospital, they are worried the figure may rise by the end of the year.

William Onyai, the District Health Educator called on the masses to test and seek treatment early in case they experience signs of persistent cough, night sweat, and sudden weight loss.

Gulu District registered a total of 228 cases of TB last year.

World TB Day was observed yesterday with the World Health Organization -WHO calling for an urgent investment of resources, support, care, and information into the fight against TB.

TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers according to WHO. Each day, over 4 100 people lose their lives to TB, and close to 30, 000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.

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