Department of health releases SA’s first TB prevalence survey

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  • SA's first national TB survey collected data from all nine provinces
  • Men had a higher prevalence of TB than women
  • Government has developed an app to help identify TB cases

South Africa’s first national tuberculosis (TB) prevalence survey 2018 was released on Friday by the National Department of Health and its partners. The survey data was collected from August 2017 to July 2019 in over 110 clusters in all nine provinces. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the release of the report.

Main findings

Over 35 000 people qualified to participate in the survey. Of these, just over 25% screened positive for TB symptoms. About 7 300 people had a positive TB culture result.

Men had lower participation rates than women. The lowest participation rate was observed in men aged 25–34 years while the highest was among females aged 55–64 years. Despite the low participation, the TB burden was higher among males, with a prevalence almost 1.6 times that of females. 

The survey also found that 66,6% of the participants who showed TB symptoms did not seek care. The majority were young males with an HIV negative status. Of those who did not seek care, 60.2% said that they would still seek care, and almost 27% of them said that they did not regard their symptoms as serious.

Over 5% said that healthcare facilities are too far away, and 6,5% reported not having enough money to travel to a healthcare facility. 

Of those who sought care, the majority, 75,6%, received it from a community clinic, followed by 14,6% from private healthcare, and 9,8% from public hospitals.

Recommendations 

In her presentation, Dr Sizulu Moyo of the Human Sciences Research Council recommended that youth-friendly services should be developed to detect TB cases in young people, and existing programmes be used as an entry point to access this group.

To close the gap, Moyo says that there is a need to explore technology and mobile health solutions to facilitate entry to care.

Mkhize says that the department has made strides in creating technological solutions for TB care.

“We have made a lot of strides in the health informations system space during the Covid-19 response. We will therefore leverage some of these technologies for TB screening, contact tracing and treatment adherence. 

“The TB Health Check App has been developed and can be accessed by dialling *134*832*5# or send 'TB' to +27600123456 on WhatsApp. This App provides an easy way for everyone to screen themselves for TB,” says Mkhize.

The minister says that over 9 000 South Africans have screened themselves for TB using the app, and over 600 have had a TB test. He says that one in 10 of those tested were found to have TB and they are now receiving treatment. 

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