South African youth must take up the torch in health matters and lead awareness campaigns when it comes to the prevention of tuberculosis (TB) and Aids-related deaths.
“We live in hope that our youth in all corners of our land will rise again to advance the health and well-being of our nation, as we deepen the programme of reconstruction and development.
“We look to them to work with us to ensure that no one is left behind as we proactively go out to find people infected with TB and put them on treatment,” Deputy President David Mabuza said on Tuesday
He was speaking the 5th South African TB Conference at Durban’s International Convention Centre.
Mabuza said today’s youth must take a page out of the book authored by the youth of 1976, and act with resolve to end the spread of preventable and treatable infections of TB and HIV.
“It is in the hands of our youth to be the new revolutionary ambassadors across society, to advance awareness about how to prevent the spread of TB and stop TB and Aids-related deaths,” he said.
The three-day event is attended by over 2 000 participants including scientists, specialists and other clinicians dealing with TB patients. It is held under the theme ‘Step Up: Let’s embrace all to end TB’.
The Deputy President stressed that South Africa must not leave TB patients untreated if it is to achieve the goal of ending TB by 2030, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.
Finding the missing patients
The Department of Health estimates that annually, South Africa is missing about 160 000 patients with TB, which is the country’s portion of the more than four million people globally with TB that are not on treatment.
Undiagnosed TB infected people constitute a significant mobile and invisible infectious pool of people that unknowingly spread the disease to others, including children. Mabuza said government is looking at innovative means to finding these missing patients.
“If we do not invest in research and development now and fail to develop new diagnostics, vaccines and medicines, as well as creative ways of dealing with the social determinants of TB transmission, we will not reach our targets,” he said.
Mabuza said the country must explore the best ways of mobilising human and financial resources to improve health outcomes in informal settlements, rural villages and in communities (such as mines and prisons) where people are most vulnerable to acquiring TB.
Despite the missing patients, South Africa is making reasonable progress with successfully treating drug-sensitive TB, which exceeded 85% in 2016 nationally, a level that is among the best in the world, according to Mubaza.
South Africa has adopted the 90-90-90 targets in the fight against TB.
These targets require government to find by 2020 at least 90% of people infected with the TB in the general population; at least 90% of those infected among key populations and vulnerable groups and treat successfully at least 90% of those who are in treatment programmes.
Government, the Deputy President said, is seeking to screen and test 14 million people for HIV and TB, and seven million for high blood pressure and diabetes annually over the next three years.
The campaign will also contribute to finding the missing 160 000 TB infected persons, especially in TB high burden areas.
In addition to this, South Africa’s TB Caucus will be launched ahead of World TB Day.
"Whereas these interventions on their own are not sufficient, they are critical if the goal of ending TB by 2030 is to be realised and sustained," said Mabuza.
According to the World Health Organisation, TB remains among the top 10 leading causes of death globally. – SAnews.gov.za