President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, (UNGA). Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

Rustenburg - Tuberculosis is not just a medical condition, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

"It has many social determinants, including poverty, unemployment, poor nutrition, overcrowding and social stigma that fuel the spread of diseases," he said at the United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on tuberculosis (TB) in New York.

"This means that the poor and marginalised carry a disproportionate disease burden." 

He said in South Africa TB was the biggest cause of mortality in the general population, especially among men.

"There were 322 000 new TB infections in South Africa in 2017, which is a significant decline from the 2015 estimate of 438 000. The decline is attributed to a strengthened response in the form of the rapid roll-out of new diagnostics and drugs."

He said South Africa’s large antiretroviral programme has significantly contributed to better TB outcomes, including successful treatment and reduced mortality.

"In South Africa, 60 percent of people living with HIV are co-infected with TB. This means that any strategy that does not address both the TB and HIV epidemics will not succeed."

South Africa is a member of the BRICS TB Research Network, which is a collaboration among BRICS countries on research and development to produce new TB diagnostics, vaccines and medicines.

"This is important as the BRICS countries contribute 40 percent of all drug-susceptible TB and 50 percent of all drug-resistant TB globally."

Ramaphosa said South Africa supports the “Key Asks” identified through a consultative process led by the World Health Organisation, Stop TB Partnership, civil society and other interested parties.

"We would like to see the declaration emanating from this High-Level Meeting embracing the “Key Asks” and setting in motion the bold response needed to end the global Tuberculosis epidemic. Investing in research and development is critical if we are to develop new diagnostics, vaccines and medicines – and find innovative ways to deal with the social determinants of Tuberculosis and its transmission. 

"As South Africa, we look forward to the meeting of the UN General Assembly of 2030 where it should be declared that indeed, we have ended the Tuberculosis epidemic." 

Heads of State gathered in New at the United Nations General Assembly first-ever high-level meeting on TB to accelerate efforts in ending TB and reach all affected people with prevention and care. 

African News Agency (ANA)