Tuberculosis infections are rising in the Northern Cape, with the province’s John Taolo Gaetsewe District said to have the second highest number of cases in the country, and the highest prevalence of multi drug resistant TB (MDR TB).
This was revealed by the Hearts of Compassion, an NGO funded by the University Research Council, during a recent candlelight memorial service held by the District Aids council.
Patients found at shebeens
In her speech, retired nurse Nomonde Ditshetelo from Hearts of Compassion said the TB statistics in the Northern Cape were shocking, and it had become extremely important for civil society to be more vocal about TB and TB awareness.
Hearts of Compassion is funded to track and trace MDR TB cases in some randomly selected areas in the district, and mainly in the Gasegonyana Local Municipality areas, Ditshetelo said.
“The most disturbing part is that when community healthcare workers who are trained to do direct treatment observation visit these TB patients, they find them at shebeens,” said Ditshetelo.
A community healthcare worker who is also doing DOT support, Dikeledi Mocongwa, said most of the patients she sees are from very disadvantaged families.
'Not an easy journey'
“Their living conditions are truly depressing,” she said, explaining that some lived in shacks with no windows or ventilation, putting those without the disease at serious risk of contracting it.
“I think our community does not take TB seriously. People are defaulting on their treatment and this is worrying.”
Christopher Tongwane, a 43 year old MDR TB survivor, encouraged communities to take TB seriously.
“My journey with TB was not easy. But I can say it was worth it,” he said, describing how he had managed to stick to his treatment with support from Seodin Clinic.
Reverend Selotlegeng Colane from the Northern Cape faith based sector said churches and faith based organisations also played a major role in the fight against TB.
“Back to basics, opening windows and building bigger churches offering more space can also help us eliminate TB in society,” said Colane. – Health-e News.