April 13, 2024

Yes, we can end TB by 2030

2 min read

Every year, World TB Day is observed on 24 March to raise awareness about the devastating impact of tuberculosis on individuals and communities, and to call for increased efforts to end this disease.

According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), South Africa has one of the highest burdens of TB in the world, with an estimated 280 000 new TB cases in 2022 – and almost 54 000 deaths (approximately 148 deaths a day).

The World TB Day theme (“Yes! We can end TB!”) will keep the focus on the work being done to ensure more people have access to TB services, including new diagnostics and new treatment regimens. It also emphasises the collective action and global co-operation needed to eliminate this disease. With the right strategies and resources in place, we can help improve the health and well-being of millions of people around the world – and bring an end to TB by 2030.

In order to achieve this, the WHO is calling for (among others):

  • More investments toward supporting the rollout of WHO–recommended TB preventive treatment options, shorter TB treatment regimens, rapid molecular diagnostics and tests for TB infection, and other innovations to improve health outcomes.
  • The scale-up of access to TB preventive therapy (TPT) and screening/testing services.
  • A focus on addressing health inequities to ensure health for all.

TB HIV Care is supporting this call by training healthcare workers on Targeted Universal Testing for TB (TUTT): a new, proactive approach that tests those most vulnerable to TB – regardless of their symptoms. This includes people living with HIV, close contacts of someone with TB, and people who have had TB within the last two years.

TB HIV Care’s CEO Professor Harry Hausler explains that symptom screening alone may miss up to 50% of TB cases. “Often people are asymptomatic, and a delayed diagnosis allows TB to spread more easily, makes more people sick, results in more complications and can even result in more (preventable) deaths. With TUTT, we can ensure high-risk groups receive immediate GeneXpert testing for TB even if they are asymptomatic.”

For Prof. Hausler, TUTT allows healthcare workers to expand testing beyond only people with symptoms and find and support more people with TB.

“Alongside TUTT, TB HIV Care is advocating for the expansion and uptake of TPT for close household contacts and people living with HIV. New guidelines mean a much shorter regimen i.e. taking the medicines isoniazid and rifapentine just once a week for three months. This is much easier for patients on TPT.”

Prof. Hausler explains the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness draft implementation plan for the National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and STIs (2023–2028) emphasises that “urgent attention must be given to the rapid implementation of scale-up of TB prevention interventions, including TUTT and TPT.

“This World TB Day, everyone should be learning about – and talking about – TUTT and TPT,” he says. “Together, we can end TB in our lifetime, and help ensure a healthier future for all.”

Image credit: diana.grytsku/Freepik

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