Call for national TB emergency

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More than half a million people contract TB every year. Photo: Sam Clark

Durban - Civil society groups have called for tuberculosis to be declared a national health emergency.

Doctors Without Borders, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Section27 made the call at the opening of the fourth national TB conference at Durban’s International Convention Centre on Tuesday.

John Stephens, of Section27, said TB and multidrug-resistant TB should be treated as a “public emergency”.

In a memorandum handed over to Professor Bavesh Kana, the conference chairman, the groups demanded “war rooms” dedicated to fighting TB be established in every province.

These would be modelled on the approach taken to fighting HIV/Aids.

The groups also called on the Health Department to provide quarterly reports to the SA National Aids Council on progress made in the fight against TB.

At the conference’s opening plenary session, Dr Christopher Dye, of the World Health Organisation, said South Africa’s millennium development goals of halving the 1990 TB prevalence rate by 2015 “was not going to be achievable”.

He said the high rate of inequality in South Africa played a role in the spread of infectious diseases.

South Africa had the “third-highest TB burden in the world”, with an infection rate of 1 000 per 100 000 people.

The national Health Department chief director for TB control and management, David Mametja, said the Southern African Development Community had declared TB an emergency.

He admitted it was unlikely the country would meet its millennium development goals.

KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said although much had been achieved in the fight against TB, much still remained to be done.

“The number of people dying from TB is unacceptably high, especially since it is treatable.”

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