PAKWACH. Medical authorities at Pakwach main health centre IV have expressed concern over a sudden drastic reduction in the number of Tuberculosis (TB) patients accessing health services during the Covid-19 lockdown.

According to statistics at Pakwach health centre IV, from the month of January to July 2021, 188 TB patients turned up to get drugs and screening compared to 399 projections for the entire district.

Mr Geoffrey Wuna Oromchan, the Pakwach district HIV and TB focal point person attributed the decline to patient's fear that they would test positive for covid-19 and subsequently be quarantined.

"From the onset of the lockdown restrictions, our Tuberculosis clients started shunning services at health facilities on suspicion that they may test positive to Covid-19 since they have similarities with TB signs and symptoms, so they feared that they would be isolated”, Oromcan said.

He said efforts such as outreaches through village health teams and sensitization to access similar help at their nearest health centre is facing resistances due to fear of being stigmatized by a section of the village members

With Pakwach district Tuberculosis cure rates standing at 75%, authorities are concerned that their efforts of further scaling down of the disease is likely to be hampered by the misconception and fear by the TB Patients.

Oromcan explained that drugs for curing TB are likely to expire without being consumed.

Though the district has decentralized TB services to other lower health centres, the same problem still persists.

At Pakia health centre III in Panyango sub county, Ms Akello Oyella, a village health team member trained in community TB tracing adherence to drugs said there's urgent need for sensitization about the differences between Covid and TB as they confuse the masses.

"All our efforts to convince most of the patients that the two diseases are different have fallen on deaf ears”, Akello explained.

She added that from the months of March to July, only 10 TB Patients accessed services from Pakia health centre while others requested that drugs be taken to them at home without testing for adherence and cure rate.

She said besides the fear of quarantine and isolation, difficulties in transports and ignorance about the schedules for getting next dozes are the other challenges.

Mr Emiliano Onen, a Tuberculosis patients said "Tuberculosis is curable, so let government use avenues that makes it compulsory to all patients on TB drugs to take them, covid is real but stigma should be denounced both to covid and TB Patients that's my humble appeal to fight what is happening otherwise it would be terrible.

TB and COVID-19 are both infectious diseases that attack primarily the lungs. Both diseases have similar symptoms such as cough, fever and difficulty in breathing. TB however, has a longer incubation period with a slower onset of disease.

Mr Geoffrey Ocakacon, the Pakwach district people living with HIV/Aids said the trend is worrying and he has recorded public outcry about the reluctance

He said "there is a high difference between Covid and Tuberculosis but people have approached me about their fear to come to health units for screening, I appeal to them that life is precious, let them freely come and be helped”.

Accurate diagnostic tests are essential for both TB and Covid-19. TB laboratory networks have been established with support from WHO and international partners.