Uganda is ranked 15th on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2008 list of the 22 countries with the highest TB burden. Currently, about 16 percent of TB patients default from their treatment, according to the national health department.
Lack of awareness is not the only the reason for the country’s struggle to get TB under control. Many patients default from treatment because of the difficulties in reaching clinics for follow-ups and check-ups, or because the needed drugs are out of stock, health experts say.
Multi-drug resistance has become a serious problem in the country, because there are few treatment options for those patients who have become immune to regular TB drugs. These patients then become a dangerous source of infection to others, explains Dr Martin Okot, senior TB consultant at the national referral hospital at Mulago.
TB was declared an emergency in 2005, and though the government has dedicated 38 percent of the health department’s budget towards fighting the epidemic, little progress has been made in curbing it.
It is against this background that Kabarole district has started home care based treatment to manage Tuberculosis patients. The move is aimed at ensuring that TB patients adhere to treatment.
Records from the office of the TB focal person show that 35 percent of the TB patients in the district fail to make it to health centers for routine checks and treatment, which has led to multi drug resistant TB.
Under the program, patients receive treatment from their homes. Charles Baguma, the Kabarole District TB focal person, says in the past, patients have not been adhering to treatment due to transport costs to health centers and stigma.
Baguma explains that health workers will visit homes of the patients each week to deliver medication and to collect information about their adherence to drugs.