South Africa is among six countries in the world that account for 60% of TB cases along with India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Latest figures indicate that despite significant improvements in the fight against TB, about 10.4 million new cases are reported annually, with nearly two million people dying from the disease. More than 95% of TB deaths are reported in low, and middle-income, countries.

“The theme of World TB Day this year is ‘Unite to end TB’ with South Africa adapting the theme to ‘Unite to end TB and HIV – South African Leaders Taking Action’. This is an important modification as its places our politicians at the forefront of the TB/HIV battle. It sends the message that a combined effort by everyone is needed to fight this scourge,” said Chairperson of SAMA, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom.

Almost 20% of people living with HIV globally live in South Africa, where TB is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality. In resource-constrained countries such as South Africa, TB is also the leading cause of death among HIV-infected persons. Drug resistant TB, such as extreme drug resistant TB (X-DR TB), is continuing to be a challenge. Multi drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) accounts for 1.8% of new TB cases and 6.7% of retreatment cases.

According to Dr Grootboom, South Africa has for the past few years practically demonstrated the principle of the 2017 World TB Day theme. He said this has been achieved by placing political leaders at the forefront of the TB/HIV battle through, for example, the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), which is headed by the Deputy President. The Department of Health has also prioritised the issue.

“The National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2017-22 aims to cut TB incidence by at least 30%, and to attain at least a 90% treatment success rate for drug-sensitive TB, and at least 65% treatment success rate for MDR-TB. Through SANAC’s NSP our country is addressing the game changers to end TB as a public health threat,” said Dr Grootboom.

However, there is still great concern for those at the forefront of the TB battle. Evidence shows that healthcare workers are six times more likely to contract Drug resistant TB. Dr Grootboom noted that as a health professional body, SAMA is concerned about health workers like doctors, nurses and radiographers who contract TB while on duty.

“TB is preventable and curable; no South African should suffer needles morbidity due to the disease. We support all campaigns aimed at preventing and reducing the burden of TB on the population. SAMA’s recent acceptance of the role as the new Secretariat for the SANAC’s Health Professionals’ Sector demonstrates doctors giving themselves to uniting with other stakeholders to end TB. Together we can beat TB,” concluded Dr Grootboom.

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