Success Stories: A Focus on Links Between Gender and TB
GABORONE - Tuberculosis notification rates remain higher among men in Botswana, but the impact of the disease may actually be harder on women and girls, according to presenters at a seminar on gender and its relationship to TB and AIDS.
BOTUSA and the U.S. Embassy teamed up with the Botswana Women Media Association (BOMWA) for the one-day seminar to commemorate two important days in March: International Women's Day and World TB Day.
More than 50 women working as home based care officers, family welfare educators, councilors and media practitioners, participated in the March 27th educational event.
Officially opening the seminar, Botswana Minister of Health Professor Sheila Tlou said that 57 percent of notified TB cases in Botswana were males and 43 percent were females. However, Tlou said, TB may affect women and men differently because of gender differences in the division of labor and in roles and responsibilities.
The impact of a woman who falls sick will be strongly felt by her children and entire family, Tlou said. TB also enhances the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth during childbirth, and can even lead to infertility in women.
"Women patients report an inability to spend time on childcare, difficulty in carrying out household chores because of deterioration in their physical conditions," Tlou said.
Dr. Robert Makombe, the HIV/TB Program Officer at BOTUSA who presented on gender dimensions of the disease, said TB remains a leading cause of death among women in Botswana and tends to affect women mainly in their economically reproductively active years. Every year, he said, 3 million women develop TB and 750,000 women die of TB worldwide.
Makombe also pointed out that there is a strong correlation between HIV/AIDS and TB. In Botswana, it is estimated that 60 to 80 percent of TB patients are co-infected with HIV. Women, especially younger women, are therefore at higher risk of developing disease because of their higher risk of HIV infection.
Women should be encouraged to know their HIV status and, if infected, to be assessed for TB and TB preventative treatment, he said. They should also be encouraged to present for TB screening at the first sign of symptoms.
U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Philip Drouin noted that the United States, through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), was supporting programs that fully integrate HIV prevention, treatment and care with TB services.
By the end of September 2007, PEPFAR had supported care for approximately 301,000 TB/HIV co-infected people in 15 PEPFAR focus countries, including Botswana.
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