A recent investigation led by the Makerere University Lung Institute reveals a concerning trend: a higher rate of dropout among women undergoing tuberculosis (TB) care compared to their male counterparts, adversely impacting their chances of survival despite the curability of TB.
The study, spanning thirty-six treatment units across twelve districts in Uganda, focused on understanding gender dynamics in TB care. The findings showed a disconcerting six percent dropout rate among women receiving treatment for multi-drug resistant TB.
The standard treatment duration for TB is six months, but for those combating drug-resistant TB, the rigorous treatment may extend up to eighteen months.
Dr. Wincey Katagira, a researcher involved in the study, disclosed in an interview that women face unique challenges such as societal stigma and a lack of nutritional support, making it challenging for them to adhere to the demanding treatment.
Notably, the study reported an 81% treatment success rate for males.
Katagira pointed out that although men are more likely to remain in care once diagnosed, persuading them to seek medical attention for suspicious symptoms is a persistent challenge.
This reluctance is noteworthy considering that men, engaged in professions and social activities that expose them to infections, constitute the majority of TB cases in Uganda.
Ideally, individuals should test for TB if they experience a non-resolving cough for two weeks. However, many male patients delay seeking care until symptoms worsen, often prompted by caregivers or relatives.
Dr. Jasper Nidoi, a TB care expert, suggested that raising awareness and improving the health system’s comfort for both genders could reverse this trend.
For men, integration of services, such as receiving HIV and TB medications in a single location, could enhance accessibility.
Despite men’s higher treatment adherence, the study reported consistent death rates of 10% for both genders. Alarming Ministry of Health statistics indicate that Uganda records up to ninety-one thousand TB cases annually. Addressing these gender-specific challenges and implementing targeted interventions is crucial for enhancing TB care and reducing dropout rates, particularly among women.