Youth take lead in the fight against TB

Dr Erika Mohr-Holland.

As the saying goes: It takes a village to raise a child.

But, that same village
can contribute to combating tuberculosis (TB), which despite being curable, kills many people every year.

This is the stance of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) which hosted a workshop in Khayelitsha on Friday March 15 to train community activists to help support them in their fight against TB.

Erika Mohr-Holland, a TB expert at Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) believes it is critical that people on the ground be trained to become TB advocates.

Dr Mohr-Holland said the reasoning behind this was that people were more receptive to messages when they came from people they knew. In this case, the messages would be about TB and the importance of sticking to one’s treatment plan.

In Khayelitsha, she added, there were a number of what the organisation referred to as “loss cases” – people who had not been tested for TB.

There was also a high number of patients who did not stick to their treatment, which sometimes involves taking multiple pills every day over a prolonged period of time.

However, she said, there had been improvements in the medication, which resulted in a shorter treatment period.

Dr Mohr-Holland said the workshop participants would collect TB data in their communities over the period of a month and present this to the organisation. “TB is curable. People must stick to their treatment. We want to spread the message of TB across all these areas. We want to end TB.

“We also want to end all the myths around this disease. These advocates will be in the forefront of the fight against TB,” she said.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Dr Zahid Badroodien, said globally, TB remained the world’s deadliest infectious killer with nearly 4 500 people losing their lives to TB and close to 30 000 people falling ill with this preventable and curable disease each day.

In Cape Town, he said, this equated to three people dying each day from this curable disease and 61 people being diagnosed with TB each day.

He said South African National TB Programme, was committed to finding the “missing TB Patients” (people who have TB but are not yet identified as such and are not on treatment) who would be at the centre of its response in ending the TB epidemic.

“Focused activities to find the ‘missing TB patients’ will ensure all those attending health facilities are screened for TB symptoms irrespective of their reason for seeking care at primary healthcare facilities.

“Those who screen positive for TB will be appropriately tested. Efforts will be made to ensure that all patients diagnosed positive for TB will be placed on a TB treatment programme,” he said.

National TB ambassador, Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon, said this was great initiative and it was time that community activists took centre stage in the fight against TB.

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