March is Tuberculosis (TB) Awareness Month, and is dedicated to educating everyone around the world about the scourge of TB. World TB Day is commemorated globally oneach year, the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced the discovery of the TB germ (bacillus) as the cause of TB.
This year’s theme for World TB Day is ‘Unite to End TB’ (http://www.stoptb.org/events/world_tb_day/). The theme has been extended in South Africa to ’Unite to end TB and HIV: South African leaders taking action.’ This is a call for greater cooperation between government, technical and funding partners, and South Africans to eradicate the dual burden of TB and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in South Africa.
South Africa will commemorate World TB Day on March 31st, 2017. USAID will join the South African Government to commemorate the main national event in Bloemfontein, Free State. Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, will be the keynote speaker, and will be joined by Ace Magashula, the Premier of the Free State, the Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, and other national and provincial political and health leaders, and representatives from technical and funding partners. Dialogues will be held with patients and health care workers. The Deputy President will launch the 2017 – 2021 National Strategic Plan on HIV/Sexually Transmitted Infections/TB.
USAID has been supporting World TB Day events in all provinces, in planning and in providing information, education and communication materials on all aspects of TB. USAID-funded local NGOs will conduct door-to-door campaigns, in collaboration with the provincial departments of health. ‘Buddy Beat TB’, a mascot developed to help children with MDR TB on their treatment journey, will be used in three DR TB hospitals - Sizwe Hospital in Johannesburg, King Dinuzulu Hospital in eThekwini and Brooklyn Chest Hospital in Cape Town.
USAID has supported the Department of Health in the management of drug-resistant TB through training of health care workers, the decentralization of treatment using a quality improvement approach, the roll-out of new second-line drugs and by contributing to policy and guideline development. Support has also been provided through training of health care workers on the latest treatment approaches to drug-resistant TB.
“Continued research is helping us better equip South Africa to beat TB, but we also need to remind ourselves that TB has not gone away and is now the leading cause of death in South Africa,” said USAID Acting Mission Director Alonzo Wind. “It is imperative to fight prejudice and improve education if the fight against this disease is to be won.”
USAID was involved in TB awareness programmes at the Bafana Bafana versus Guinea Bissau soccer match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
Saturday’s match, as well as tomorrow (Tuesday)’s match versus Angola at the Jan Smuts Stadium in East London, have been dedicated to support World TB Day commemorations. There will be TB screening before the match, and TB messages will be displayed on banners and hoardings around the stadium.
To raise the visibility of TB in communities, USAID screened the Bafana Bafana versus Guinea Bissau match in four communities in Eastern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Northern Cape provinces. Before the match, pamphlets about the signs and symptoms of TB were handed out at the stadium. Tents were set up to screen for TB and people with presumptive TB were referred for testing.
TB and HIV tests are available free of charge at any public health facility in South Africa. If you suspect that you might have TB, or HIV, visit your local clinic or hospital today to be tested. For more information about TB and TB/HIV you can also contact your nearest clinic or the National Department of Health - 0800 012 322 / 012 395 8815 (www.health.gov.za)