Kanco intensifies campaign against TB stigma in Kenya

Kanco has intensified its campaign to fight tuberculosis stigma by involving religious leaders in Kenya's TB response.

Stigma has been one of the major drawbacks in the efforts to prevent and control the spread of TB. Religious leaders can often make an important contribution to the fight against stigma in their communities which is why KANCO gathered them together to face this challenge.

Led by KANCO TB Manager, Evelyn Kibuchi and KANCO trained TB Advocate Eddy Chichi, the religious leaders were taken through the TB infection cycle, causes, prevention and treatment, risk factors that come with infection as well as the role of religious leaders in TB control in Kenya.

The leaders were also trained on multi-drug-resistant TB with Eddy Chichitelling them of the pain he has endured from multi-drug-resistant TB for the last decade. Eddy narrated his experience of stigma and urged the religious leaders to make an effort in addressing the issue of discrimination.

TB is a major cause of death for people living with HIV. HIV weakens the immune system and so people living with HIV who are infected with TB bacteria are 20 times more likely to become sick with TB than someone infected with TB who is HIV-negative.

People with TB (despite the disease being curable, even among people living with HIV) are still stigmatized by some people in Kenya. Consequently, some TB patients do not seek medical attention early enough resulting to serious complications and sometimes mortality.

The World Health Organization describes multi-drug-resistant TB as strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to at least the two main first-line TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin.Resistance to anti-TB drugs in populations is a phenomenon that occurs primarily due to poorly managed TB care. Problems include incorrect drug prescribing practices by providers, poor quality drugs or erratic supply of drugs and also patient non-adherence.

Kenya is ranked 13th out of 22 countries with a high Tuberculosis burden globally with the disease mainly affecting the most economically productive age group of 15 to 44.

Over 47 key religious leaders from different denominations attended the five day training held from 13 – 17 June 2011.

The training was jointly organized by KANCO and the Africa Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Affected by HIV (ANARELA+).

The aim of the training was to equip and empower religious leaders with facts and information on TB, HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and empower them to share information learnt with their congregation.

The workshop also aimed at training and equipping participants in influencing policies and service provision for TB, HIV and SRHR at the local and national level in Kenya.

On completing the training, facilitators hoped that the network members with their faith based influence will be able to play a significant role through their congregations in working to overcome self and societal stigma associated with TB, HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health challenges.