Close to 4,000 people die each day from tuberculosis, which is the fourth leading killer among infectious diseases. There have been 10 million tuberculosis infections in 2019 alone, and 1.4 million have died from the disease. There were approximately 140,000 cases of TB in Kenya in the same year.
Around 32,000 TB-related deaths occurred in Kenya in that year alone. This could have been prevented through more targeted programming.
Male tuberculosis survivors from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa participated in the Just Men forum to share their stories with celebrities and become Male champions for TB advocacy. A live Facebook session complemented the event with Ambassador for Youth and Adolescent Rep Health Programme (AYARHEP), which is an adolescent and youth reproductive, health rights organisation, focused on gender advocacy on TB.
It is estimated that TB is more prevalent in men with approx. 60% of cases are diagnosed in men. According to Kenya’s 2016 prevalence survey, the disease killed the most productive population (18-44 years), and men were two times more likely to be infected than women.
The 2018 High-Level Meeting of the United Nations (UNHLM) focused on eradicating TB by 2030. To contribute to national and global goals, the commitment recommends gender-sensitive programming and innovative TB response strategies.
Due to men being more susceptible to TB, addressing gender-related barriers that prevent access to and treatment adherence is crucial. As their first remarks, Dr Waqo, Head of the National Tuberculosis Program, and Dr Kinyanjui, Country Director of the African Health Forum, highlighted financial barriers and societal norms that force men to prioritise income-generating activities over their health.
Furthermore, low levels of awareness of TB suggest that TB messaging for men needs to be creative.
As we continue strengthening the conversation around TB in women, it is crucial to ensure that men who carry the most considerable disease burden are not excluded from the discussion.