PRETORIA, 24 March 2020 – Today marks World TB Day and South Africa joins the world in commemorating this significant day under the theme, ‘Cheka Impilo- It’s TIME to End TB’. World TB Day is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on yet another ongoing health challenge amidst the corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak.
SANAC Chairperson, Deputy President David Mabuza, was scheduled to lead the official commemoration at KaMhlushwa Stadium in the Nkomazi Municipality of the Mpumalanga Province. This public event however, has had to be cancelled following the President’s pronouncements on measures to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak.
South Africa will still observe World TB Day through various activities that will not break the protocols of the current National Disaster declared by the country’s President, His Excellency Mr Cyril Ramaphosa. Some of these activities include lighting up key structures in red this evening. The Parliament of the Republic of South Africa is one of the key structures to be illuminated in red. Government will also be utilizing various channels, including media platforms to communicate TB messages to the nation.
The corona virus is a respiratory infection that affects mainly the lungs. This has raised a justifiable concern for people infected with TB. The World Health Organisation however, confirmed that there is no scientific evidence to conclude that TB patients cannot withstand a COVID-19 infection. As with all other health conditions, it becomes paramount that TB patients take their treatment correctly. Good nutrition and regular exercise is also advised in order to assist the body in recovering fully and with speed.
TB remains the leading cause of death in South Africa – the WHO estimated 301 000 new infections in 2018 and it is still the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.
In 2018, Statistics South Africa reported that more than 29,000 people died from TB in our country, this makes it imperative therefore, that everyone knows their status and if infected, are on treatment. The new TB prophylaxis drug, 3HP, is proven to be quite effective as a preventative therapy against TB. This gives us comfort during the emergent COVID-19 outbreak.
Our plea to all South Africans is that everyone should be screened and tested for TB. This service is free at all public health facilities.
The SANAC Chair, Deputy President David Mabuza has emphasized that all our efforts geared towards combating the spread of the corona virus should seriously take into account the plight of the vulnerable sectors of our society.
TB is preventable and can be successfully treated, even if one is living with HIV.