Fight against TB suffers huge setback during lockdown

Donations urgently needed to support patients undergoing treatment

Denise Price and Nola Monteith from Santa Port Elizabeth need donations to buy food for TB patients to collect from the 22 clinics they serve in Nelson Mandela Bay
HELPING HAND: Denise Price and Nola Monteith from Santa Port Elizabeth need donations to buy food for TB patients to collect from the 22 clinics they serve in Nelson Mandela Bay
Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Tuberculosis was first overshadowed by HIV/Aids and more recently Covid-19, yet it is still one of SA’s most serious pandemics — and more devastation is on the way unless the disease is given the attention it deserves.

That is the word from  South African Tuberculosis Association (Santa) Port Elizabeth administrator Denise Price.

Price said the effect of tuberculosis sufferers defaulting on treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic had been catastrophic.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2019 an estimated 10-million people fell ill with tuberculosis.

Price said the Covid-19 pandemic would most certainly have an impact, with a rise in tuberculosis cases expected.

She said for almost six months Santa had been unable to deliver meals to TB sufferers as a result of Covid-19.

“Patients were given extra treatment by their clinics for two to three months,” Price said.

It is essential TB sufferers eat before taking their medication.

Price said defaulting on medication was problematic as those who did not strictly follow the treatment regime could become resistant to the drugs they were taking.

“We have a lot of resistant tuberculosis in the metro right now, and we also have an HIV problem,” she said.

“The two go hand in hand.” 

“Tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death. In the metro, we are working with about 8,000 to  10,000 people per annum on treatment.”

Price said of particular concern was that people became drug resistant and then spread TB to others in their community.

She said because some clinics were closed due to Covid-19, a number of people had been unable to collect their medications.

Price said the habits people had picked up as a result of Covid-19 — washing hands,  keeping windows open when using public transport and sanitising — should continue because “there’s an old demon (TB) which was overshadowed by HIV and Covid-19”.

“We are currently serving 22 of the 58 clinics in the metro. We concentrate on the northern areas, old Ibhayi   and Motherwell with a nutritional supplement for the patients to have at least one meal a day,” Price said.

She said funding for the programme was always a problem.

“We have been funded by the National Lottery and the PE Children’s Feeding Trust because we feed children as well, [and] the Algoa Bay Charitable Trust, and then we get a couple of donors.

“They aren’t large amounts [so] we approach businesses [and] organisations. We used to do street collections [and] we receive clothing donations which we repackage and give to needy patients.

“We are trying to give every clinic a supply of porridge to give judiciously for the most needy patients.” 

Price encouraged anyone who would like to donate to contact the Santa offices.

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