” Investing in TB starts with the realisation that as an individual, I have to screen myself, my family and immediate surroundings. And also, take stock on how I am influencing the compass away from stigma and discrimination. Collectively, when we all do so, we will be saving lives whether we recognise that or not.” Dr Bongile Mabilane, QI/QA Lead at Anova Health Institute talks about the importance of investing to End TB.
What does World TB Day mean to you?
TB Day is a moment the world takes time to reflect on how far we have come with TB and how far we still need to venture towards ending TB as a public health burden. Having said so, the World TB Day is a very important day for public health and for organisations such as ours that have committed to care for persons living with HIV and TB.
What does this year’s World TB Day Theme mean to you “Invest to End TB. Save Lives.”
This year’s theme is full of courageous verbs. Strong action-provoking words such as End, Invest, and Save are really powerful in the days where pushing the buck is so common. It is forcing us to move away from mediocre slogans that places responsibility to the next person. I see it as a call to action for each and every one of us to be doers and not just a bystander. Investing in TB starts with that realisation that as an individual, I have to screen myself, my family and immediate surroundings. I have to take stock of how I am influencing the compass away from stigma and discrimination. Collectively, when we all do so, we will be saving lives whether we recognise that or not.
What kind of challenges do you think people living with TB are currently facing?
Definitely Stigma and Discrimination at the forefront but there are other important pain points such as the pill burden, side effects from treatment and socio-economical burdens that come with the two-weekly to monthly clinic trips. We cannot leave out mental and emotional health as well. Anova Health Institute has an excellent treatment support (case management) wing in place to mitigate and assist with some of these challenges. Our treatment retention counsellors (case managers) are stationed in clinics and are trained to support people living with TB to navigate these challenges on a one-on-one basis. These are resources we need to promote and put out there especially for our clients and other vulnerable populations. We have also partnered with the Department of Health to support their community outreach teams where we encourage home visits and check-ins for persons who cannot come to facilities. Anova has capable psychosocial teams to support people living with TB with emotional and mental issues.
What precaution measures would you suggest that people living with TB can take to manage this disease?
Taking from the fact that there is so much stigma and discrimination and the other issues I mentioned earlier, I would encourage that they commit to finish their TB treatment from the word go. We acknowledge that there will be reasons that threatens their resilience to finish but quitters never win. It is paramount that they take the entire course of treatment till the end.
A recent TB survey has shown that more than half of persons diagnosed with TB are also living with HIV (whether they know it yet or not). It is advisable that if HIV and TB co-exist, that the client takes actionable steps to control both infections. We encourage routine HIV testing every year, and we need all persons living with TB to know their HIV status. If one is found to be HIV negative, it is important to keep the protection by using condoms, undergo a free male circumcision if they are males, and to take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a prevention pill that protects from HIV infection. All these are free services that Anova support in local clinics.
It will also be important that they drink a lot of water, get enough sleep and rest, eat healthy meals, and keep their living spaces well ventilated, all which adds up towards healthy living.
What advice would you like to give to families who are with people living with TB and has also lost their loved ones to TB?
Families can contribute directly towards ending TB by getting screened and if positive, start the journey of TB treatment. Public and private clinics have tools on how to screen for TB if you are on site, but the Department of Health has also made available an electronic App to fast-track self-screening at the comfort of your home. If a close loved one is diagnosed of TB, families can take up TB preventative therapy as prescribed by the clinics.
What investments or engagements that Anova has made to End TB and Saving Lives in the communities that we serve?
We work closely with the Department of Health by giving support in various forms. Anova has personnel working in clinics and hospitals providing direct care to patients. There are skills and expertise that support the TB drive through technical assistance, operational research, and developmental trainings.
What final message would you like to give to people living with TB, Especially, during this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important to start treatment, but it is vital to finish the course. I would like to re-emphasise that TB is curable with treatment given for free in public sector. And would also encourage people living with TB that they are welcome to contact us via TB Health Check App, the USSD code *134*832*5# or +27600123456 WhatsApp line.
Invest to End TB. Save Lives.