Stronger advocacy aimed at strengthening demand for TB testing and treatment services needed

25 March 2021

The theme for World TB Day 2021, The Clock is Ticking, highlights the urgency in delivering on commitments to end TB by 2035.

According to Prof Kogie Naidoo, Deputy Director and Head of HIV and TB Treatment at CAPRISA, despite great strides achieved in TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment, each year approximately 10 million people fall ill and 1.4 million die from TB globally, with an estimated 4000 TB-related deaths each day. “In South Africa, ‘approximately 400,000 new TB cases, and 58,000 TB deaths were recorded in 2019 alone,” said Naidoo.

She cautioned that over the past 15 months, the COVID-19 pandemic disruption to health services has negatively impacted gains made toward global TB control. A recent WHO report indicated a 20% decline in TB diagnosis globally over the last year.  “SA among the worst affected countries, shows a TB testing decline of 41%, largely due to re-prioritization of routine health services for COVID-19 and restricted patient access to TB diagnosis and treatment services, “ said Naidoo.

Naidoo explained that in addition to the worldwide decline in TB diagnosis and treatment, ‘data from South Africa show that people co-infected with TB and COVID-19 have three times higher mortality than people infected with TB alone, supporting calls for contact tracing, case finding and bi-directional TB and COVID-19 testing and treatment services. “Every effort must be made for greater public awareness and stronger TB advocacy aimed at strengthening demand for TB testing and treatment services,” she said.