The Ministry of Health estimates Uganda’s tuberculosis (TB) disease incidence at 330 cases per 100,000 population. Thus, it is crucial to detect early and for patients to adhere to treatment adherence to eliminate TB from communities.
Just like for Hamza Betebe, a resident of Sidanyi village, Sidanyi Parish, Petete Sub-County, Butebo District, Eastern Uganda. For two months, a strenuous cough rocked Betebe’s chest. He suffered joint aches, had night sweats and his skin pigment lightened. He felt cold all the time and lost weight.
“It was difficult to breathe. I felt like I was carrying a heavy load,” recalls the 60-year-old.
Between April and June 2021, Betebe bought antibiotics and painkillers from nearby drug shops. A few times he got relief, but the pain reoccurred within a short time.
“At first I was worried that he had been infected with HIV like everyone was gossiping,” says Zaituna Christine Katemu, Betebe’s partner.
Since Betebe grew weak and could no longer work, he soon ran out of money. And he became bedridden.
“Whenever I visited him, I saw him coughing. I advised him to go to Nagwere HC III for help,” says Ben Bwini, a Volunteer at Nagwere HC III.
“Because Betebe came coughing seriously, we suspected that he was suffering from TB. We sent him to Mbale for an X-ray test,” says Kasan Ogu, a Lab Technician at Nagwere HC III, in Butebo District.
Said Betebe: “I didn’t know how TB is spread. I asked my mother if I had got the disease as a child. She said no. When the Mbale doctors confirmed that I had TB, I worried that I would die. My friend had got TB and was dead after two years.”
Katemu recalls how Betebe used to move with a container in which to spit. When the x-ray came out positive, she agonized about the family’s source of funds to support him during treatment.
A few days later after the x-ray test, Betebe returned to Sidanyi and started his nine months treatment journey. Within weeks, the painful cough disappeared. His appetite returned and he regained his strength.
Ogu says Betebe was a good patient, who adhered to the treatment. And whenever the facility team went to his home to check on him, it found that he had taken to heart the advice they had given him. Betebe used to sleep alone to avoid coinfecting other family members.
“I used to encourage him to take his drugs. He is my childhood friend. I wanted him to live longer,” says Bwini.
In February 2023, Betebe was re-tested for TB. The test confirmed that he was TB free. “With the help of organizations like USAID, we can support TB patients. Otherwise, many would die,” says Ogu.
“I am now changed. I thank Baylor-[Uganda] for checking on me. Coming to my home shows it cares,” says Betebe.