Almost 98% of all Tuberculosis (TB) patients admitted at hospitals in northern Uganda are victims of HIV/AIDS according records from St Mary Hospital Lacor, in Gulu district.
Mr. Samuel Opwonya, a 27 years old former convict from Gulu Main Prison is a HIV patient who has contracted TB and is therefore taking both ARV and TB drugs.
Opwonya took time to talk to our reporter when he introduced himself as a Journalist working for Acholi Times, in the same room is Mr. Charles Kinyera a 56 years old patients in the same predicament.
TB HIV patients remain in the ward according the Clinical Medical officer Mr. Oburu.
Opwonya told our reporter that he hails from Binya Village in Odek Sub County was arrested in the year 2010 and fell sick whilst in prison from where he was diagnosed with HIV.
“I started HIV drugs from Gulu Central prison on March 12, 2010, so when I contracted TB, I took the drugs for 8 months, and after the treatment I was feeling pain in my chest.” Mr. Opwonya said.
Adding further that after his release from Gulu Central Prison, he went home to Odek Sub County, however since he was not feeling well he was forced to seek further TB and HIV medical treatment from St Mary hospital, Lacor.
He says that his condition has improve tremendously although he is sweating, all the time and following medical advice he has stopped smoking and drinking waragi (local gin).
“I just started taking ARV drugs for one month, I was taking Sceptrine for three years,” he said.
Opwonya’s wardmate, Kinyera who is also a HIV/TB patient said that he started taking TB drugs in April, 2011.
“I think I am now following the drugs well, at five months my septum remain positive,” Mr. Kinyera said.
Kinyera says that he was an addicted smoker and a heavy drinker but he too has quit both because of his poor health.
“From here I have to eat very well before taking ARV and by the time of treatment, I have to eat also.” Mr. Kinyera observed.
He said that he has been told if he wants to have sex he has to use condom and that if he wanted more children both he and his partner’s CD4 count have to be over 350 counts.
The Clinical Medical Officer Mr. John Oburu said that the TB ward at St Mary’s Hospital, Lacor which was built in 1959 was meant to accommodate a capacity of 30 beds.
However, the minimum number of patients seen in a day is 15, on average 25 with the maximum being 50 patients, Oburu revealed.
TB patients for the last four years are as follow: In the year 2008 the hospital recorded 1466 TB cases; in 2009 it recorded 1344; in 2010 that number dropped to 1289 and in 2011 it further dropped to 1034.
Oburu said that most of the TB cases in Northern Uganda cames about because of poor environment, it remains inactive in our body because our immunity is still strong. However if the person acquires HIV, the immunity in the body is now weakened, because the HIV weakens immunity, the TB infection which has been dormant then exploits this weakness and pounces, he disclosed.
Oburu said that when they started giving anti TB treatment, they also commenced on health education to patients urging them to quit smoking and drinking.
He said that whenever patients approach, they are started on drugs immediately, those who are very sick are admitted for two weeks in hospital, well as those that commute from neighbouring districts like Oyam, Nwoya and Amuru are referred to their health centres.
Although St Mary Hospital, Lacor remains one of the better hospitals in northern Uganda, it is overwhelmed by the large number of TB patients that are seeking medication intervention, he told Acholi Times.
Oburu said that whenever they refer patients to the other hospitals or health centres in the district, the patients come back to them citing poor services and lack of medication.
Christopher Kibwota, a 64 years old, from Lalogi sub county and also a patient suffering from TB attends the hospital regularly for checkups because he said that he has constant pain in his chest, and also around his neck.
“I cough when I am sleeping on the left side, but when I am on my right side I do not cough,” he said.
Margaret Auma, 30 years old is also a TB patient, a resident of Lacor centre; which is some seven kilometres from Gulu town, she is attending the hospital with a four years old boy Rwotomia Onek who suffers from TB and Hepatitis B.
Amua said that Rwotomia has been on TB drugs for one month, and acquired Hepatitis B from his late mother Ms Alanyo Joyce who succumbed to the disease a year ago.
“This boy Rwotomia started treatment of Hepatitis B in January this year, he is still on the drugs,” she said. By A Web design Company
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