The World Health Organisation estimates that 124,000 people died of TB in South Africa in 2016 (about 330 daily). It is the country’s leading cause of death, and has been made much worse by the HIV epidemic: over 80% of people who died of TB in 2016 were also infected with HIV. People with compromised immune systems are at a much higher risk of becoming ill with TB. In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that close to 40% of the people with tuberculosis (TB) were “missing”. This means that worldwide there are more than 4 million people with TB who have never received a diagnosis or appropriate treatment. The mode of transmission of the disease used to require that those affected be isolated while infected and contagious; the treatment involved lengthy hospital stays, with loss of income for adults. Consequently, many people continue to adopt a posture of denial and delay care or seek lower quality care through the private sector or traditional healers. TB can be cured without a hospital stay and with little to no impact on jobs or family members.
The primary goal of this awareness day is to educate and inform people about the realities of the disease and its treatment to firstly, destigmatise TB and secondly encourage testing. To end the TB epidemic, these ‘missing’ cases of people with TB need to be found, diagnosed and treated effectively.