‘Tweets’ of support for World TB Day

Every minute, three people around the world die from TB. In South Africa alone, 400,000 South Africans were known to be infected with TB in 2009 and a further 490,000 were diagnosed with TB in the same year.

To mark World TB Day, Lancet Laboratories has come up with a first-of-its-kind twitter campaign to help raise awareness about TB.

“We wanted to move beyond the usual poster and leaflet health-education campaign and do something completely different, something that would create immediate impact and would help start a conversation about TB, between ordinary South Africans,” says Dr Peter Cole, Managing Partner of Lancet Laboratories.

He continues, “Today, a great way to reach people is through a social media platform like twitter.”

Free tests

Lancet Laboratories will be offering one free sputum ZN test for every five times the hash tag: #WorldTBDay is used in South Africa.

In total, Lancet will be giving away 100 free TB tests.

Dr Cole says, “We know that offering TB tests free of charge is not going to change the status quo and eradicate TB, but it’s our way of getting people to talk about TB and raising awareness”.

He continues: “This is year one of Lancet’s TB twitter campaign and, if it’s successful, Lancet will commit to continuing this programme and will aim to make even more noise about TB next year.”

To help accurately capture the number of times #WorldTBDay is used by the twitter community in South Africa, BrandsEye, the online reputation management service will be working with Lancet Laboratories to track usage and monitor all online conversations about the campaign.

Education video

Lancet Laboratories has also created a unique health education video, accessible on YouTube. With the help of local sketch artist, Robert Dersley, Lancet illustrates the impact of TB on the people South Africa and provides easy to understand facts on how TB is transmitted, common symptoms, how TB is diagnosed and treated, and, importantly, how to prevent spreading TB if you are infected.

People who are concerned that they may be infected or at risk of infection are directed to the Lancet Laboratories website, where they can register to receive one of the 100 free tests.

First come, first served

The tests will be offered on a first come first served basis. Lancet’s TB tests are processed in a laboratory that is SANAS accredited, meeting rigorous international standards.  Compared to conventional testing methods, which can take anything from six weeks to three months, Lancet can potentially provide TB test results in one day.

“This is essentially a social mobilisation campaign carried out online. We are empowering the twitter community to make a difference by enabling them to motivate others to generate 100 free tests as well as encouraging them to share the Lancet #WorldTBDay video to educate people in a different way. Ultimately, we want to empower people to raise awareness and help educate fellow tweeters about TB,” concludes Dr Cole.

(The Lancet Laboratories, Media Release, March 2010)

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