Roughly 50% or more of people that currently have diabetes in South Africa are as yet undiagnosed and are not aware they have it.This was revealed by a Groote Schuur Hospital health professional during a World Diabetes Day event at the hospital on Wednesday 14 November.Professor Joel Dave, head of the Endocrinology Division at the hospital, says according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is about 5.4% (but this also depends on the ethnic group as it is higher in Indians), so there are about 1.9 million adults with diabetes in South Africa.Dave was addressing a gathering of health professionals, health activists and patients. Instead of giving a lecture on diabetes, he called on the gathering to rather celebrate diabetics’ achievements.“(Let’s) acknowledge that this disease of diabetes is unfortunately very widespread, it knows no boundaries, it does not discriminate and it is vastly on the increase,” said Dave. He called on the health workers to lead by example by becoming more active – walking to the hospital, using the stairs instead of taking the lift, cutting down on sugar and carbohydrates, and not smoking. His colleague, Professor Ian Ross, took it a step further: “Today we should acknowledge patients and people with diabetes, family members who take care of them and nursing staff who give tirelessly to looking after them.” Ross reflected on the challenges diabetics face every day and the countless decisions they are forced to make because of the disease.Groote Schuur nurse Yolanda Mtati was six years old when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999 and says it has changed her life since. She said she found it hard to deal with the changes in lifestyle, and watching other children eating what they wanted made it even harder. “I was very young and it was difficult for my mother to inject her own child and I had to be hospitalised and could not go to school.”However, she says if managed well, it’s not the end of the world. “If you take your medication – I am insulin dependent, I must inject myself regularly, everywhere I go I take it with me – it does not mean it’s the end of life.”Mtati, from Khayelitsha, says with support from family and friends, she managed to finish school and complete her tertiary studies, and in 2014 she became a nurse at Groote Schuur.Warren Driscoll (26), a type 1 diabetic from Claremont, collects his medication from the hospital and goes for check-ups every three months. He was born with the disease. “I inherited it - it’s a God-given family gift,” he joked.Asked about how he deals with the disease, Driscoll said: “It is challenging. I have to watch what I eat, I have to inject myself three times a day. I also have to watch my sugar – if my sugar is too high, I can’t exercise and if it’s too low, I can’t exercise. It’s basically keeping on a narrow line the whole time.”The musician’s message to other diabetics was: “Think twice about what you eat. Look out for yourself now so you can have a longer life.”The hospital’s nursing manager, Aghmat Mohamed, thanked the two doctors, the nurses and the patients for their efforts. He encouraged staff to spread awareness about diabetes.Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town announced in a statement last week that its health department has recorded more than 30 000 clients who were screened for diabetes from January to June this year and staff expect to double the total number of screenings for last year, which came to 21 000 (January to December).The statement further said the department has embarked on a drive to encourage those in high-risk groups to visit clinics for screening. City clinics have reported a significant increase in lifestyle-related diseases over the past decade, especially in poorer communities, says the City’s Mayco member for safety, security and social services, JP Smith in the statement.Global pharmaceutical company Cipla revealed in a statement that the prevalence of diabetes in adults is increasing worldwide, and it is predicted that by 2040, the condition will become one of the leading causes of death in South Africa.The IDF Diabetes Atlas also estimates that one in 11 adults currently has diabetes, and globally, the condition accounts for over 12.8% of deaths among people aged 20 to 79, reads the statement.