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Centre drives TB awareness

26 Mar 2019

Dr Rose Henry during the TB Awareness Day in Plumstead.
Dr Rose Henry during the TB Awareness Day in Plumstead.

People's Post (Claremont/Rondebosch) by Racine Edwardes and Nomzamo Vuku

Lady Michaelis Community Health Centre in Plumstead hosted an awareness drive for World Tuberculosis (TB) Day to raise awareness about the illness and increasing access to treatment, on Wednesday 20 March.

Speakers, including doctors, taught patients about TB. According to a provincial department of health 2017/2018 report, the Western Cape had a TB success rate of 80.2% patients diagnosed. The report also states that the province has a ''lost-to-follow-up'' rate of 11.1% - patients who began treatment but never returned for check-ups. The centre is working with the provincial department of health towards the 909090 Global Plan to end TB.

The plan aims for 90% of people who need TB treatment to be diagnosed and receive it, 90% of people in key and vulnerable populations to be diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment and to achieve a TB treatment success of 90% of all people diagnosed with TB. For World TB Day, this year organisations have adopted the theme ''It's Time'' which places emphasis on raising awareness about the disease.

Doctor Rose Henry, from the centre, elaborated on how they aim to curb the spread. ''Part of our 909090 strategies for TB and HIV is to make sure that everybody gets tested for TB at every visit and gets tested for HIV at least annually,'' she said.

The public is therefore encouraged to be tested for, and if diagnosed with TB, to get treatment at the nearest health facility.

Health department is also embarking on the project ''Finding the missing TB cases in our communities'', especially for people who do not go to health facilities, as part of the National TB Improvement Strategy to ensure that patients living with TB are found, diagnosed and receive treatment.

Neeltjie le Roux, of the USAID TB South Africa Project, supports the strategy to raise awareness.

''A lot of people don't want to accept the diagnosis of TB and that's because of the stigma that is associated with it,'' Le Roux explained.

She added that the stigma has caused a significant portion of the public to avoid seeking treatment when faced with symptoms of the illness. Another deterrent preventing people from getting screened is the idea that it may cost them to do so, she said. Le Roux said healthcare facilities on a national scale have taken the initiative to allow for a 'fast-tracking' process where people who have symptoms indicative of TB are able to be screened immediately, after opening a file at the facility of their choice.

She warned patients against defaulting on their treatment to prevent the spread of the disease. She urged families to support and encourage their loved ones to complete treatment.

Yolanda Cottee, manager of comprehensive health programmes at the department of health, placed special importance on recognising the signs and symptoms of TB. These include persistent coughing for more than two weeks, drenching night sweats, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, chills, fever, chest pain and coughing that produces blood.

Cottee said that knowing the symptoms is the first step to increase awareness and furthermore, seeking treatment.

Henry also advised the public of the social issues and lifestyle choices that cause people to become susceptible to contracting TB: ''Anything that decreases your immune system - poor nutrition, excessive smoking and substance abuse; anything that's going to weaken your lungs and make your lung prone to contracting TB.''

In addition, Henry said, chronic diseases or lifestyle such as sugar diabetes, cancers and HIV also make people more prone to contract TB. Tawanda Yasini from Constantia had an appointment with his doctor on the day and said after listening to the speakers he was courageous to go for screening. He said the awareness was an eye-opener for him because he would take things like ''over­working'' lightly not knowing the impact it has on his health.

''I usually do my HIV test and I was not bothered by checking TB, today I'll be doing TB screening for the first time."