One woman’s commitment to finding missing TB cases in Nigeria
“Why don’t you test for TB?” Folasade Ojeleke, owner of Damilat, a patent and proprietary medicine facility, asked a young woman in her store.
These words may have saved the lives of the woman and her sister.
According to a World Health Organization 2017 global TB report, 18 Nigerians die of tuberculosis every hour, and the country accounts for about 15 percent of the global gap in TB case notification, according to a Nigeria Centre for Disease Control 2018 report. Understanding the importance of finding missing TB cases motivates compassionate businesswomen like Folasade Ojeleke.
Folasade’s store lies in the heart of the densely populated Alimosho area of Lagos State. In this community she goes the extra mile to bridge the TB gap. Ever since joining the SHOPS Plus network, which trained her to screen for TB in 2018, Folasade has been determined to change the narrative around TB.
The SHOPS Plus network is managed by a partner organization Loving Gaze, which coordinates network officers who mentor and support providers like Folasade. When she noticed a young woman in her community was steadily losing weight, Folasade did not ignore it. “I have a scale in my shop, and I often encourage people to check their weight regularly. I noticed her weight was dropping. Anytime I drew her attention to it, she would tell me that it was nothing,” Folasade recounts.
Though Folasade did not immediately suspect TB, she knew something was wrong. Eventually, Folasade encouraged the young woman to test for TB and took it a step further. She remembers, “Since she was going to test herself, I told her to encourage the people around her (where she lives) to test for TB as well. The test is free, so why not?”
A few days later, the young woman and her sister were both diagnosed with TB. Folasade volunteered to accompany the young woman to the hospital, where she began treatment. However, her sister was more difficult to persuade. “When she told me that her sister would disagree, I decided to speak to her myself. It wasn’t easy, really. It took me four days to convince her. As soon as she agreed, I connected her with the network officer so she could follow through with her treatment,” Folasade said.
Folasade made sure everyone she works with was tested for TB. She also encouraged people living around her shop to test, which led to the diagnosis of a few neighbors, including children.
“Many people are afraid of the cost, but I tell them not to worry; it’s free. When they agree, I also convince them to tell the people around them to test. If I can, I talk to them myself.”