Did you know that Nigeria has the dubious distinction of being ranked 3rd among the 22 countries that are affected with Tuberculosis (TB)?

Tuberculosis is a major public health problem worldwide with symptoms that range from cough that usually lasts 3 weeks or longer to night sweats, weight loss, fatigue, and fever. The cough in TB is often accompanied by blood and/or phlegm. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, loss of appetite and chills.

What is the reality of Tuberculosis in Africa?

Poverty is one of the main reasons why TB is hard to eradicate in Africa. Patients that are affected the most, often live in remote areas and have no direct access to proper health care. As a result, patients with TB usually get treatment at a more advanced stage of the disease by which time complications have set in. These complications include:

  • Pulmonary TB can cause permanent lung damage if not treated early
  • Spinal pain: Back pain and stiffness are common complications of tuberculosis due to involvement of the bones of the spinal column (Pott’s Disease)
  • Joint damage: Tuberculous arthritis usually affects the hips and knees
  • Liver or kidney problems: Your liver and kidneys help filter waste and impurities from your bloodstream. These functions become impaired if the liver or kidneys are affected by tuberculosis.

If you suspect that you or someone you know has TB, seek treatment as soon as possible by visiting the nearest primary health centre or hospital or see your regular doctor if you have one.


The WHO (World Health Organization) recommended DOTS (Direct Observed Treatment – Short course) strategy is a program that requires a trained health care worker or other designated individual (excluding a family member) to provide the prescribed TB drugs, watch the patient swallow every dose and document it.  Despite implementation of DOTS in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, accessibility to services still remains a huge challenge for the population of a lot of countries because many live long distances from the DOTS centres.

The 2 main goals of DOTS are:

  • To ensure that the patient with tuberculosis (TB) completes therapy
  • To cure and prevent drug resistance from developing in the community.

The African mind-set of attributing supernatural causes to illness, often results in delayed diagnosis and proper treatment. Some misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding causes, transmission and treatment of Tuberculosis also obstruct appropriate care seeking.

Some misconceptions about treatment that is false:

  • TB is incurable
  • TB treatment kills

Misconceptions about how you get TB –

  • TB can be contracted by smoking, mosquito bites, exposure to cold air, sharing eating utensils
  • TB is contracted by having penetrative sex with, or eating food that has been prepared by, a woman who has just given birth, is menstruating or has recently miscarried
  • TB = AIDS, so all TB patients have AIDS and so will die

A common misunderstanding among many South Africans is that having TB means HIV infection as well, but this is simply not true. While many HIV infected people may have TB, and TB accounts for a quarter of all HIV/AIDS deaths, not all TB patients have HIV.