Government sets new target in fight against TB

Friday, March 23, 2018

Government has set itself a target to test and treat at least an additional 80 000 people for tuberculosis (TB) between April this year and March 2019 through its campaign to fight the disease.

The launch of the campaign was announced by Deputy President and chairperson of the South African AIDS Council, David Mabuza.

He was speaking at the commemoration of World TB day on Thursday ahead of the official day on 24 March 2018.

This campaign is in preparation for a high level meeting between Heads of State in New York, where they will discuss how the world will eliminate TB. 

The campaign targets people who are currently either not diagnosed or have stopped TB treatment before they were cured.

“Many of our citizens have been ‘missed’ by our health system, as they have not been reported, and therefore have not been diagnosed.

“We seek to find and treat at least 40 000 before we go to the High Level Meeting in New York in September,” said the Deputy President.

It follows a call made by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi -- as chairperson of the Stop TB Partnership Board -- at the United Nations General Assembly in 2016 for the UN to discuss solutions for TB. 

Traditional leaders central in fight against TB 

The Deputy President said the key to meeting their target for the campaign is the collaboration with traditional leaders due to their proximity to people.

“Traditional leaders, by their close proximity with our people, carry a huge responsibility to reverse the tide against new TB infections and TB related deaths.

“Our partnership with ubuKhosi carries the promise that our fight to bring an end to the suffering and preventable deaths of our people from tuberculosis or HIV is possible. We therefore call on all leaders, especially all South African traditional leaders, to help us to end TB,” said the Deputy President.

The Deputy President thanked Prince Nhlanganiso Zulu, a TB survivor, who after contracting the disease in 2010, availed himself to become a TB ambassador in KZN.

“We salute His Majesty and the Prince for standing up to actively create an awareness that our people require to live healthier and productive lives. He is giving people with TB a voice, a face, and dignity,” said the Deputy President.

Through his initiative called “Isibaya Samadoda”, Prince Nhlanganiso, is works on the ground with men promoting healthy sexual behaviour, condom use, circumcision, and testing for HIV and TB.

Stats SA reported that in 2015, there were 460 000 recorded deaths from various causes. Of these, TB contributed 33 000, followed by diabetes which contributed 25 000.

“TB remains the leading infectious disease killer of South Africans. Research shows that 60% of people with HIV also have TB, and people with diabetes are three times more likely to have TB,” said the Deputy President.

Cure and prevent TB 

Deputy President Mabuza reminded the public that while TB is curable, prevention is better than cure.

“TB is curable! Taking treatment for just six months cures TB and the treatment is provided free of charge in clinics by our government. However… people with coughs, night sweats, chest pains and weight loss – the symptoms of TB - often ignore these symptoms,” said the SANAC chairperson.

The Deputy President said stigma around the disease discourages communities from seeking help.

He urged people to get tested if they experience symptoms of coughing for more than two weeks, night sweats, chest pains and losing weight.

“Taking TB treatment for just six months will cure you. It is absolutely critical that those that are put on treatment, complete their treatment. Failure to complete treatment can result in multi-resistant TB, which does not respond to regular TB treatment," said the Deputy President. –