Government should integrate TB and COVID-19 services: Dr Churchyard

Reading Time: 3 minutes

CEO of the Aurum InstituteDr Gavin Churchyard, says he’s extremely concerned about a drastic decline in the number of people testing for tuberculosis (TB) because government has redirected its resources to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.  

Wednesday marks World TB Day.  

The day is commemorated on March the 24th to raise public awareness of the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.  

The date marks the day in 1882 when Doctor Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that caused TB.  

This paved the way for diagnosing and curing this disease.  

DChurchyard says government should integrate TB and COVID-19 services.  

The symptoms are similar, they both present respiratory symptoms. We use the same platform to do the test. And so, while we screen people for COVID-19, we also should screen them for TB and then integrate the treatment that will follow up because if people are scared to come to the services, we should go to them and make sure people are being tested and make sure that people with TB are started on treatment. 

“The Clock is Ticking”

This year’s theme is ‘The Clock is Ticking’ – which conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on global leaders’ commitments to end TB.  

The disease remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers, taking the lives of over 4 000 people daily.  

Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 63-million lives since the year 2000. 

Here are a few key facts on TB, according to the World Health Organisation as at 14 October 2020:  

  • A total of 1.4 million people died from TB in 2019  
  • TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent (above HIV/AIDS). 
  • In 2019, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis in 2019 worldwide  
  • TB is present in all countries and age groups however, the disease is curable and preventable. 
  • In 2019, 1.2 million children fell ill with TB globally.  
  • Child and adolescent TB is often overlooked by health providers, thus making it hard to diagnose and treat. 
  • In 2019, the 30 high TB burden countries accounted for 87% of new TB cases. Eight countries account for two-thirds of the total, with India leading the count, followed by Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa. 
  • Globally, TB incidence is falling at about 2% per yearBetween 2015 and 2019the cumulative reduction was 9%. This was less than half way to the End TB Strategy milestone of 20% reduction between 2015 and 2020. 
  • TB diagnosis and treatment helped save the lives of an estimated 60 million people between 2000 and 2019 
  • Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).