Tackling TB in Imizamo Yethu

Community health workers: Nomveliso Singayiya and Unathi Mposelwa, TB HIV Care communications manager, Alison Best, Nosithembele Xubuzani and Pozisa Mahanjana during their walkabout in Imizamo Yethu.

TB HIV Care, a non-profit organisation, marked World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24 with a walkabout in Imizamo Yethu to raise awareness about the illness and offer mobile health-care services.

TB HIV Care spokeswoman, Alison Best, said the organisation’s goal was to find, prevent and treat TB and HIV.

According to the 2018 World Health Organisation Global TB report, around 322 000 people fell ill with TB in South Africa the previous year which led to the death of almost 78 000 people.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is that anyone can get TB; it’s an airborne disease,” said Ms Best.

“Some people think you get it through dirt or poor hygiene, but that’s not true, so it’s really important that people get to know that.

We also have a big problem with stigma and that drives people away from our services because they are worried about what other people may think or say, so they don’t access our services when they need them. And, even when they are diagnosed, they hide it and don’t come in for treatment and they miss appointments,” she said.

During the walkabout, TB HIV Care counsellors did TB and HIV testing and checked people’s blood pressure.

IYTV, an online TV station in the area, encouraged residents to attend the event and get tested.

Colleen Booysen, a co-ordinator in TB HIV Care’s community-based services department, encouraged the community to do the screenings so health issues could be detected in the early stages.

“We are based in IY but also focus on the harbour area in Hangberg. We have a team of 33 members and we usually receive referrals from hospitals and other facilities of people who have just been discharged,” said Ms Booysen.

“Once we’ve done the screening and found that a patient is symptomatic, we’ll then do follow-up tests before we initiate any treatment. And, we also have a dedicated team that walks through the process with the client through the first couple of months of treatment.”

The organisation also does outreach programmes at schools.

“I am a registered nurse and working in a community made me realise the importance of community based services, early detection and raising awareness,” said Ms Booysen.

“We’re part of the health forum in Hout Bay, where all the different sectors meet up once a month, so we are always in touch with what’s happening in the communities, and schools would ask us to come around if they feel the need.

We have a mobile team who usually target schools because there are a lot of our children also affected by TB. We have huge social problems and environmental issues that make everyone, from adults to children, vulnerable,” she said.