Worry as patients troop to sorcerers, pastors for fear of ‘spells’

[Photo: Courtesy]

Before Patrick Mbaji was diagnosed with TB in 2010, he experienced chest pains and fatigue. When doctors revealed what was ailing him, and that he would need medication for months, some friends had another suggestion: they knew of a sorcerer in Kilifi who could cure him instantly.

He thought about using the herbalist for a while, but his condition worsened compelling him to go to hospital. He however says some friends have not been lucky.

“I have lost two friends who refused to take drugs after they visited a sorcerer and were told they were suffering from a spell cast by a jealous neighbour. They died,” he said.

He says there are also churches that promise divine healing and patients believe them blindly.

Kilifi County Chief Officer for Public Health Ibrahim Alio says he has handled cases where patients throw away their TB drugs and seek help from herbalists.

“Once they are diagnosed, they consult a herbalist and never go back to hospital,” said Alio.

Mbaji adds that drug abuse, particularly heroine addiction is another hindrance to TB treatment. Drug addicts seldom adhere to treatment regimen. Late diagnosis, especially among men, also makes it difficult to contain TB.

He says the county government is also struggling to follow up on TB patients, as some of them get diagnosed in private facilities that do not have a comprehensive follow-up plan. Others go to hospital and when TB tests are recommended, they take off.

Mbaji has been diagnosed with TB twice. He has spent two months in an isolation ward in Mombasa and says his experience has made him passionate about discussing adherence to drugs. He says the greatest ‘cure’ for TB is love and support.

“My mother came and started taking care of me. She had to come all the way from Mitsajeni village in Ribe and helped me in my weakest moments. You get better when people care,” he says.

Kilifi County Government has now put officers on surveillance in homes to identify TB cases.