by Andrea Katrina M. Marchadesch
Barangay San Agustin in Bay, Laguna conducted a Tuberculosis (TB) Awareness Seminar earlier this month, as part of the Department of Health (DOH) TB Awareness month.
The program is part the TB Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS) adopted from the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO website, the DOTS is the recommended treatment for TB because it is efficient and cost-effective. It includes the diagnosis of TB through sputum-smear microscopy, anti-TB treatment under direct and supportive observation, supplying of anti-TB drugs and thorough monitoring of the results of the patient’s treatment. The patient is able to avail these through the financial assistance of the government.
DOH held a seminar for the Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) of Bay in December 2011, which aimed to help them educate their communities about Tuberculosis. Anamarie Bacsafra, a BHW, personally conducts house-to-house visits in the barangay. Bacsafara is the only BHW assigned to Brgy. San Agustin to facilitate the seminars, since their barangay has a very small population. Bacsafra said that this program has been in implementation for a long time but a lot BHWs have forgotten teaching their communities about TB. This was one of the reasons why DOH held the seminar in December.
According to Bacsafra, several people are still unaware or have the wrong impression about TB. People know that TB is a lung disease and that anyone get TB. They also believe that TB can spread by sharing eating utensils with someone who has TB or even sexual contact with someone who has TB, which are misconceptions. TB is airborne, which means that it can be spread through the air such as by sneezing or coughing.
Even though most people know that anyone can be a victim of TB, some still think that only thin people are the ones prone to the disease. Another misconception about TB is that it is hereditary. If the parent had TB, then the child is bound to have TB as well. This is also not true. People also think that TB is caused by stress, tiredness or by not drying off sweat on a person’s back after a physical activity.
These misconceptions about this disease cause shame to those who have TB. They deny that they have the disease and fail to get the treatment and medication that they need, which is unfortunate because TB is curable, says Bacsafra. That is why the main purpose of this awareness seminar is to inform the households about TB, how to know when someone has TB, what causes TB, what common misconceptions people have about TB, how TB spreads, and how to treat TB.
Hon. Manolito Mendres, the barangay chairman of San Agustin supports this program fully and is actually pleased by Bacsafra’s efforts. He wants this seminar to help the barangay be more aware of TB because it is important. He hopes this program will continue to grow beyond the door-to-door seminars.
People who get treatment for TB, however, sometimes doubt the medication given to them by the BHWs or by the health center because of the side effects that they experience. Side effects that people usually experience when taking the medication are fatigue, hyperventilation, red urine, etc. But according to Bacsafra, all the side effects that they experience are temporary and only happen because the person’s body is getting used to the medication.
It is the community’s responsibility to spread the correct information about TB to its members so that if one gets TB, it can easily be treated. It is also the responsibility of the community to not judge, but rather help the person with this disease because it is common and again, it is treatable.
Individuals can be volunteer “treatment partners” to, for example, their family member who has TB. They have the responsibility to monitor the medication of the patient until the treatment ends. They also have to report to the health center if the patient experiences side effects and to help the patients with the monthly check-ups.
One of the participants of this door-to-door seminar is Luisito Paran, a local councilor, said that people can learn from this because even he learned that the using the eating utensils of a person with TB will automatically gives you TB. He added other people who have TB shouldn’t disgust us. Distancing ourselves from them isn’t necessary; instead, we should approach and help them get better. People with TB are ashamed and deny they have TB because we are disgusted and because we do the best we can for them not to transmit their disease to us, like with separating their food from ours.
Even though TB isn’t a big issue in the barangay, Paran thinks that most people don’t have enough information about TB, so this seminar is really needed. When asked about this seminar’s impact to the community’s awarteness about the disease, he said, “makakatulong ‘to lalo na sa aming barangay, kung mapupuntahan ‘nya ang bawat bahay at ipaliwanag, kasi ang tao nga kapag hindi mo maipaliwanag ng maayos, malaking bagay ang maitutulong ‘nun.”
Bacsafra said that every month, their target “participants” are 23 people. So every month, until the whole community is covered, the seminar will go on. She adds that once people are aware of TB, “makakatulong na ang bawat isa sa pag sugpo ng sakit na TB.” This is a big issue in any community she says, because some people have the wrong ideas about TB and are afraid of it. But, people need to remember that it is preventable and treatable.
She stresses that people don’t have to be ashamed of having TB since it’s a common disease. She hopes that these seminars that she gives will help her community become more aware about TB because it’s about time since a lot of people don’t get the treatment that they need. If anyone needs treatment for TB in San Agustin, Bacsafra recommends them to approach her or the Barangay Health Office for consultation of DOTS.
People should learn three simple things about Tuberculosis. One, is that TB is contagious. Two, is that TB can be treated. And lastly, three, is that you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.