Date: Thursday, 15 September 2022
Policymakers in health, civil society and community leaders attended the 7th South African Tuberculosis (TB) Conference at the International Convention Center in Durban this past week. The conference which began on Tuesday, 13 September 2022 until Friday, 16 September 2022 saw authorities reinforcing their commitment to the fight against TB. South Africa is said to have tied with the largest HIV/AIDS prevalence globally have alarming TB infection rates.
Mabalane Mfundisi, Executive Director of Show Me Your Number (SMYN) spoke on behalf of the SANAC Civil Society Forum (CSF) TB Task Team. The CSF TB Task Team role is to ensure no person in South Africa die from TB. For this to happen, there should be advocacy for change on how things are done in collective responses as civil society working with government and the private sector.
Caption: Mr Mabalane Mfundisi, CHAIRPERSON: CSF TB TASK TEAM & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: SHOW ME YOUR NUMBER
In his speech at the conference, he stated “We are better together, working and walking side by side. We are waging a struggle against TB and our rallying call is that we must do to TB what we have and continue to do to COVID-19. We have an opportunity to bring about change and that time is NOW.”
He continued to state that the war against TB will be won through political leadership at national, provincial, district, local, ward, street and household levels by government, civil society, labour, and private sector. Mr Mfundisi explained that at the apex of this political leadership is the resolve by civil society that will play an advocacy role that places SANAC at the centre of responding to TB with involvement of relevant government departments (not only National Department of Health), private sector and labour.
Despite TB being preventable and curable, the disease is the second leading infectious killer following COVID-19 worldwide. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 alone in South Africa, the country recorded 328 000 new TB infections. It is said that about 60% of patients also have HIV. Mr Mfundisi called for the fulfilment of the call by the PLHIV Sector and SANAC CSF for TB to be declared a public health emergency.
He continued by explaining that “the operationalisation of the South African TB Recovery Plan that we as civil society participated in its development. We will not just sit and wait for the government to implement this plan; we commit to contributing to its implementation. The Recovery Plan has already been delayed by 6 months and must be resolved with the urgency it deserves.”
SANAC CSF TB Task Team are contributors to the National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB & STIs 2023 – 2028 (NSP 2023 – 2028) and their contributions are to ensure that TB is at the centre of this NSP 2023 – 2028. Some key basic minimum actions that must guide the implementation of the South African TB Recovery Plan that were made previously at the SANAC CSF TB Task Team meeting with the Deputy President and Minister of Health on 18 March 2022 were to firstly find missing people with TB and link them to care and implement the Test & Treat approach to assess all high-risk groups for TB. Furthermore, the NDoH must ensure health worker safety and update Community Health Workers’ (CHW) scope of work to reflect their leadership role in implementing an integrated TB, HIV and COVID-19 response. Lastly, to reduce TB stigma by ensuring that all stigmatising and discriminatory language, behaviour, and processes should be actively removed at the national and provincial Departments of Health.
Caption: Mr Mabalane Mfundisi, at the 7th Annual TB Conference 2022
In his closing remarks, Mr Mfundisi spoke on behalf of the civil society collective and called on government to ensure that it removes the bureaucratic blockages that have been put in place to deny adolescent and young people to access services in schools because of memorandum of understanding that is not in place due to the conditions that the Department of Basic Education has put in place for the Primary Recipients of the Global Fund grant. For the period April 2022 – March 2025, the Global Fund has invested $560 million in South Africa after South Africa pledged $10 million in the last Replenishment. Denying services to young people is akin to denying treatment to citizens who die daily because of our inability to implement the TB Recovery Plan.
Excerpt from speech by Mabalane Mfundisi, Executive Director: Show Me Your Number
Article by Gontse Kodisang, Media Officer
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