Opinion: New research and implementing lessons from COVID-19 are key to South Africa’s future TB intervention plans

Our health systems endured a heavy – often invisible – cost during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the country was focused on the battle against this pandemic, long-fought gains against other infectious diseases were being rolled back.

And none more so than with tuberculosis.

The Lancet notes that South Africa has one of the highest tuberculosis (TB) burdens in the world, with 304 000 people developing TB in 2021, bringing the country’s incidence rate to 513 per 100 000, according to the World Health Organization’s Global TB Report released recently. In South Africa, the TB epidemic is largely driven by the high HIV prevalence rate, with the disease estimated to kill more people living with HIV (33 000) than those who were HIV negative (23 000) in 2021.

Earlier this year, more than 2 000 healthcare workers labouring to end tuberculosis gathered for the 7th South African Tuberculosis conference to share results from research findings, advocate for implementation of effective strategies with policy makers, and collaboratively plan for the road ahead. Conference delegates included researchers, government & policy makers, community-based health workers, health planners, and civil society activists/advocates.

The conference provided a realistic assessment of the progress and the challenges in TB control, and of the direction which TB control and research plans should now take to achieve South Africa’s tuberculosis prevention and treatment objectives. A few months down the line, we need to keep the momentum going and implement lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, including pooling our limited resources and increasing the pace to find a TB-preventative vaccine.

Read the full story at Spotlight.

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By Kelvin Vollenhoven and Neetha Morar

Published: Nov. 25, 2022, 10:19 p.m.

Last updated: Nov. 30, 2022, 10:22 p.m.

Tags: TB programs

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