The provincial Department of Health is calling on people to join hands in the fight against tuberculosis, as it seeks to determine how best to deal with the scourge.
This emerged during the handing over of 10 electrocardiogram (ECG) heart monitoring machines to the Gugulethu Community Health Clinic by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, on World Tuberculosis Day, on Thursday March 24.
The machines will help staff to manage the side-effects of the new TB drug, Bedaquiline.
Dr Tracey Naledi, chief director of health programmes in the Western Cape, said the country had the sixth highest TB prevalence in the world (first, when adjusted for population size), and was one of the 22 high-burden countries that contribute about 80 percent of the total global burden of all TB cases. She said that was according to the National Health World TB Day report.
Dr Naledi said the Western Cape had the fourth highest incidence rate of drug-senstive and drug resistant TB in the country – 739.1 infected per 100 000 people.
She attributed high TB infection rates to poor living conditions, and called on the government to provide houses and jobs to assist in the fight against the disease.
“Tuberculosis is a developing world disease. Most people who are affected are those from the poor backgrounds. If we really want to hit the mark, we have to improve people’s lives. Our aims should be about improving people’s lives. Give jobs, build proper houses and end poverty,” she said.
Doctor Giovanni Perez, chief director for the Metro East District, described the new drug as a revolution, but said more work had to go into the management of TB.
He also said that he was amazed that after so many years, there had not been a more dramatic increase in TB treatment.
But, he added, the new ECG machine would make it easier for doctors to monitor patients’ conditions.
At the hand-over, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said it wanted to strengthen the fight against TB by focusing on the poorest of the poor.
Ms Tutu shared some moments about how her husband had to endure years in hospital because of the disease.
“I never understood why it took so many years, but now I know that we have got to work together to cure TB,” she said.