World TB Day 2023 Commemoration and the Launch of the 5th National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs
-Nelson Dlamini & Karabo Makgato
Deputy President Paul Mashatile, in his capacity as Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) led the official commemoration of World TB Day and the Launch of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs for 2023-2028 in Rustenburg, Tlhabane Stadium, in the North West Province on Friday, 24 March 2023.
The Deputy President was accompanied by the Chairperson of the SANAC Civil Society Forum (CSF) Ms. Steve Letsike; the Deputy Chairperson of the SANAC Private Sector Forum (PSF) Dr. Tshegofatso Gopane; the Minister of Health in South Africa Dr. Joe Phaahla and the Premier of the North West Province Hon. Bushy Maape.
Each year, the country and the rest of the globe commemorates World TB Day on 24 March to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic impact of tuberculosis (TB) and to urge acceleration of efforts to end the epidemic. Despite significant progress over the last decades, TB continues to be the leading cause of death in South Africa, claiming an average of 56 000 per annum, more than half of which are people living with HIV (53%). It is also the most infectious killer worldwide, claiming over 1,5 million lives per year. Drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) poses a major health threat and could risk gains made in efforts to end TB. This can be mitigated through public awareness about the importance of screening, testing and finishing one’s treatment if infected.
The national theme for the commemoration of World TB Day 2023 “Yes! You and I Can End TB” aims to encourage individual action to contribute to the national effort against TB. It also emphasizes the importance of being accountable as an individual and as part of a collective. “You and I” is a statement of intent designed to encourage individuals to take charge of their health in line with “Cheka Impilo” objectives, as well as the country’s endeavour towards finding the missing TB clients.
Hosting the World TB Day commemoration in Rustenburg Local Municipality (Tlhabane) was spurred by the high TB burden due to mining activities, as well as the high number of informal settlements leading to overcrowding and unfavourable living conditions exposing community members to health hazards, including TB. SANAC Civil Society Forum in collaboration with Government and the Private Sector led a number of Policy-in-Action outreach activities days leading to the Commemoration in various areas around Rustenburg regarding integrated response to TB, HIV, STIs, COVID-19 and non-communicable diseases to encourage community members to access health services in line with the SANAC Partnerships Strategy, launched by the former SANAC Chairperson Deputy President David Mabuza in 2020.
The launch the 5th -national strategic plan for HIV, TB, & STIs
This year’s World TB Day commemoration was quite significant due to the launch of the South Africa’s fifth National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB and STIs for the period 2023-2028. Dubbed “The People’s NSP” the Plan provides a strategic framework on how the country should respond to the three epidemics over a five-year period.
In his keynote address, Deputy President Mashatile stated that “the new NSP is a blueprint and roadmap for a multi-sectoral, people-centred approach to eliminate HIV, TB and STIs as public health threats by 2030. It emphasises the need to break down barriers and maximise equitable and equal access to services through resilient and integrated health systems to guarantee the health and social protection of all South Africans The successful implementation of this NSP will require strong governance and leadership, and the involvement of all sectors of society including government, business, organised labour, civil society, development partners, research institutions and communities in general”, said the Deputy President.
Following the launch of the National Plan, provinces will finalise their Provincial Implementation Plans (PIP) which are informed by the national Plan. This NSP is the most critical since it’s the last one ahead of Agenda 2030 where South Africa joined the world in committing to end HIV and TB as public health threats.