Tuberculosis (TB) -- a preventable disease linked to poverty -- was declared an emergency in Africa in 2005.
Each year it claims the lives of half a million Africans, many young and in their most productive years. In the past 15 years, Africa has seen overall rates double and triple in high HIV areas.
Africa has the highest incidence of TB per capita in the world (28%), with many of the worst affected countries located in sub-Saharan Africa.
The most at risk include the urban poor, migrants, and refugees forced to live in overcrowded conditions.
Africa is the only continent where TB rates are increasing, with 1,500 TB deaths every day. Tragically and avoidably, 10% of these deaths are children.
TB is also a leading killer of HIV-positive people with severely weakened immune systems. About 200,000 people living with HIV/AIDS die from TB every year, most of them in Africa. Since 1990, HIV has been the single most important factor in the rising incidence of TB in Africa. Treating co-infected people is difficult as the drug therapies for each disease are hard to combine safely.
Dangerous, drug-resistant strains of TB have also now emerged. New strains occur because of inconsistent, incorrect treatments being given or because of unreliable drug supply. A key cause of drug resistance is not completing a course of treatment.
- Multi-drug-resistant TB is resistant to the two most powerful anti-TB drugs
- Extensively drug-resistant TB is resistant to ‘second-line’ drugs and thus, extremely difficult to treat
How AMREF is tackling TB
Working alongside local communities, AMREF is training community-based health workers to raise awareness about how to prevent TB and diagnose it correctly. We are also advising people to be voluntarily tested as a preventive measure.
Because TB treatment is particularly complicated and prolonged, health workers are trained in Directly Observed Treatment Strategy (DOTS) – a method that ensures patients take their medication in the correct way.
Trained health workers raise awareness about hygiene (which will prevent the spread of TB) and about eating nutritious food – a strong immune system will help fight the disease. Patients in some areas are encouraged to plant vegetable gardens to improve their diets and provide exercise.
In South Africa, the Sakhisizwe TB Project has helped identify many more cases of HIV/TB co-infected patients, enabling them to get timely treatment. It has also improved the number of people completing their treatment properly and has boosted the rate of early detection.
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