ON MARCH 24 every year, the world commemorates World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. Pre-commemorations for World TB Day, which were slated for Mangwe District in Matabeleland South Province, took place in the second city of Bulawayo recently.
Key among the deliberations of stakeholders who congregated there was the issue of the discrimination of patients afflicted with the disease at the workplace.
Stigma and discrimination have always been barriers to the achievement of a “Zimbabwe Free of TB by 2025”.
The workplace must support those infected so they continue to feel a part of the company family that should assist them during their treatment period.
Ostracising them will obviously lead to employees keeping secret information about their illness, which in itself erodes trust — a phenomenon that should be the bedrock of organisational development.
Perhaps overly worrying — according to a report in Thursday’s edition of the Daily News— was the disclosure from the first National Tuberculosis patient cost survey conducted by the Health ministry, the World Health Organisation, The Union and USAid which revealed that of the 893 patients placed under study, 47 percent of those with the disease were fired from their jobs last year.
These statistics are scaring to say the least, meaning a lot of work needs to be done to change mind-sets in employment environments.
According to Charles Sandy, Health ministry Aids and TB Unit deputy director, there is need to raise awareness and educate people about the disease and how it is spread, especially in the workplace.
Sandy also noted that 52 percent of those under the study ended up selling their properties and taking up loans as they incur a lot of expenses during treatment.
Because of this, there is need for government to come up with measures to cushion TB patients’ burden thrust on them as a result of the disease.
The situation has even worsened because of the emergence of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) among patients. MDR-TB is a type of TB infection caused by bacteria resistant to treatment and as such can stretch up to six months or more before a person fully recovers.
For TB programmes to succeed, there is need for sufferers to get the full support of families and communities they live in since family members and the community at large help patients not abscond treatment, something that can cost their lives.