Understanding TB In 2018
Bona|March 2018

Driven by poverty and escalating numbers of HIV infections, the prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) remains a big challenge in South Africa. But, it is not all doom and gloom.

Siya Mahomba
Mayibuye Zila* from Khayelitsha, Cape Town, discovered that he was HIV positive at the age of 24. In 2017, five years later, he was also diagnosed with TB. Mayibuye is one of about 450 000 cases of TB that are reported each year. Fortunately for him, both his illnesses are manageable. He is currently on treatment and leads a healthy lifestyle. South Africa has one of the worst TB epidemics driven by HIV. The contagious disease is preventable and treatable. But, according to Statistics South Africa, it remains the leading cause of death in the country, having killed more than 33 000 in 2015.

THE CAUSES

TB is caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs. It prevails in South Africa due to several socio-economic ills, with poverty being the leading determinant. Crowded and poorly ventilated living conditions as well as malnutrition result in direct risk factors for transmission. Others include limited general health knowledge and a lack of empowerment to act on knowledge. These can also expose you to risk factors such as HIV. However, according to TB/HIV Care, the rate at which TB is occurring in South Africa has declined in the past 10 years. This is a non-profit organisation dedicated to finding and caring for those affected by TB and HIV. “In 2006, there were 940 TB cases for every 100 000 people in the population. In 2016, the number went down to 781,” says communications manager Alison Best. She credits this to collective efforts by organisations such as TB/HIV Care as well as the government. For example, in the past, patients needed to take handfuls of different pills daily. But in recent years, four types of medication – rifampicin, isoniazid, pyrazinamide and ethambutol – were combined into a single pill. This makes taking treatment easier for patients such as Mayibuye.

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