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May 2021 2nd edition

Have you been tested for TB?

Deputy President David Mabuza has called on South African men to be counted in the nation’s efforts to end tuberculosis (TB) by getting tested.

“Unless men heed this call, the wellbeing of South Africans will forever hang in the balance,” he says.

The Deputy President cited the results of the latest TB Prevalence Survey Report, which found that the infectious bacterial disease was 1.6 times higher in men compared to women in the country.

“Men must be encouraged to test for TB so that they get treated early before they spread the disease within their families and the entire community,” he stresses.

The Deputy President, who is also the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), says the fight against TB is being affected by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

The capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of national health systems have been strained by waves of infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

TB detections

The national lockdown and movement restrictions also contributed to the disruption of access to health services.

This has led to a reduction in the number of TB detections, as patient contact and tracing services became difficult during the lockdown. 

“This pandemic has the capacity to erode the achievements and progress achieved to date in the fight against the spread of TB,” says Deputy President Mabuza.

He notes that South Africa is counted among the 30 countries with a high burden of TB.

Government is determined to meet the goals of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

As part of plan, government aims to diagnose at least 90% of all people infected with TB, while treating 100% of those who have tested positive, and decrease TB deaths by at least 30%. 

"This year, the National
Strategic Plan is nearing the finish line, yet the numbers, in terms of targets we had set for HIV, TB and STIs, remain stubbornly high," says the Deputy President.

He adds that government is working hard to reduce new infections from 450 000 to 315 000 per year.

He raised concerns over the latest findings, which shows that 390 000 people became infected with the virus in 2018 in South Africa, while only 60% of them were diagnosed.

“This suggests that there is a large number of people who are walking around with the infection but are not on treatment. That is dangerous, considering that one person infected with TB could potentially infect a further 15 people.”

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says almost 50 000 people have succumbed to TB annually for the past three years.

Treatment

The Minister says COVID-19 has disrupted not only people’s normal lives but also service delivery, and admitted that government is falling behind in its treatment interventions.

Minister Mkhize says government is working hard to improve communication around TB; civil society engagement, integrate TB, COVID-19 and HIV services; strengthen airborne infection control processes and explore innovative ways to ensure treatment adherence. SAnews.gov.za