Department intensifies fight against tuberculosis

TB survivor Phumla Appie.

James Kruger, the provincial health department’s director of HIV/Aids and TB said they wanted to show other TB patients that TB was curable.

TB survivor Phumla Appie said she was glad that she managed to complete her TB treatment and defeated the disease.

TB patients who are now cured after staying on treatment were honoured by the provincial Department of Health at a ceremony in Khayelitsha last week.

The function at Solomon Ntsuku Hall in Site C, on Thursday March 22, was held in the run-up to World TB Day on March Saturday 24.

The TB survivors, who received certificates for their perseverance in sticking to the six-month-long treatment regime, were hailed as role models for others still battling the disease.

The TB survivors spoke about how they had each been diagnosed as well as the challenges they’d faced overcoming the disease.

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo was meant to give a speech at the event, but the patients arrived an hour late and she had to leave for another engagement.

In a statement released later, she said Khayelitsha had seen a steady drop in TB cases: from 4 764 in 2014 to 4 071 in 2015 and 4 023 in 2016. Then last year the drop had been even more noticeable with only 3873 cases recorded.

Dr Mbombo said the decline showed TB could be beaten if people took their medication.

She said the Western Cape had 38 680 patients on TB treatment and 1586 of them had drug-resistant TB.

Patients defaulting on treatment remained one of the biggest hurdles in defeating TB, she said. She urged people to go for free TB testing so that the disease could be treated early.

More than 4 million people had attended clinics and hospitals in the Western Cape to be screened for TB in 2017 alone.

“TB is curable. We want our people to stay on their treatment. We want to intensify the fight against TB,” she said.

TB survivor Phumla Appie was diagnosed with TB in 2014. The 51 year-old mother of four said it had not been easy to take the treatment, and at times she had wanted to default on her treatment.

Ms Appie lost a lot of weight and her appetite during the first treatment phase.

She said she could have given up easily, but her children had urged to keep on taking the medication.

James Kruger, the provincial health department’s director of HIV/Aids and TB, James Kruger, said they put more than 3000 people on the TB treatment annually and 90 percent of them were cured.

He said TB was curable if patients stuck to their treatment. The disease could become more resistant if people skipped treatment.

He said one of the main reasons patients defaulted on their TB treatment was the stigma associated with the disease, but TB did not discriminate: anyone could get it.