Although societys attitude towards TB is slowly changing, one thing remains a challenge among in communities  the stigma. Photo: Independent Newspapers
Although societys attitude towards TB is slowly changing, one thing remains a challenge among in communities  the stigma. Photo: Independent Newspapers

‘Women hardest hit by TB’

By Keabetsoe Matshediso and Lerato Diale Time of article published Aug 4, 2011

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Although society’s attitude towards TB is slowly changing, one thing remains a challenge among in communities – the stigma.

With TB regarded as the highest killer in South Africa, women are the hardest hit.

One woman who has made it a mission to empower others and change people’s perception regarding TB is Gerry Eldson, a national TB ambassador and a businesswoman in her own right.

Eldson has dedicated her life to educating communities in South Africa and beyond. Her core message is that TB is curable if you finish your treatment.

“Doing it for TB in style” is Eldson’s message to all women during Women’s Month (August).

Speaking to women in Hurlingham, Johannesburg today (Thursday), Eldson urged women to empower others in society and to give them support.

The reality of this disease is spreading fast and causing many deaths. It has been compounded by the emergence of drug resistant strains and HIV. However, TB affects us individually through the stigma borne from ignorance and the lack of information about the disease.

Active TB is known to infect up to 15 people every day.

Eldson who was also diagnosed with TB said: “This is a secondary disease, which affects people daily. It is still misunderstood and it is a silent killer where people do not want to engage and face the reality of its cause. This creates concern because of a lack of education and information among our people.”

According to Statistics South Africa, about a third of the 25 million Africans infected with HIV will die of tuberculosis, a disease that ravages lung tissue. TB is the leading cause of death among people with Aids. Worldwide, about 5 000 people die every day from TB. Most of those deaths occur in Africa, where extreme poverty, lack of adequate health facilities and rampant HIV infection rates are exacerbating an already alarming TB crisis.

“It is a 100 per cent curable disease which is easier to treat once found early in the human body. Treatment can take up to nine months depending on the condition of a person’s infection. One should check with a doctor when experiencing continuous coughing for about three weeks and more,” said Eldson.

Gina Borthwick, a TB survivor and publisher of Joburg Style Magazine said: “I was diagnosed seven years ago after marathon treatments and false diagnosis. It affected my life negatively and was a really tough time for me. I managed through love and support of family and friends and I now urge people to take their health seriously.”

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