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Northern Cape records shocking TB stats

Written by Mpho Lekgetho

Tuberculosis infections are rising in the Northern Cape, with the province’s John Taolo Gaetsewe District said to have the second highest number of cases in the country, and highest amount of multi drug resistant TB.

Nix-TB patient in waiting area at Brooklyn Chest Hospital in Cape Town / Credit: John-Michael Maas for TB Alliance

This was revealed by the Hearts of Compassion, an NGO funded by the University Research Council, during a recent candle light memorial service held by the District AIDS council.

In her speech retired nurse Nomonde Ditshetelo from Hearts of Compassion said the TB statistics in the Northern Cape were shocking, and it had become extremely important for civil society to make noise about TB and TB awareness.

Hearts of Compassion is funded to track and trace MDR TB cases in some randomly selected areas in the district and mainly in the Gasegonyana Local Municipality areas, Ditshetelo said.

Defaulting on treatment

“The most disturbing part is that when community health care workers who are trained to do direct treatment observation visit these TB patients, they find them at shebeens,” said Ditshetelo.

A community health care worker who is also doing DOT support, Dikeledi Mocongwa, said most of the patients she sees are from very disadvantaged families.

“Their living conditions are truly depressing,” she said, explaining that some lived in shacks with no windows or ventilation, putting those without the disease at serious risk of contracting it.

“I think our community does not take TB seriously. People are defaulting on their treatment and this is worrying.”

Christopher Tongwane, a 43 year old MDR TB survivor, encouraged communities to take TB seriously.

“My journey with TB was not easy. But I can say it was worth it,” he said, describing how he had managed to stick to his treatment with support from Seodin Clinic.

Reverend Selotlegeng Colane from the Northern Cape faith based sector said churches and faith based organisations also played a major role in the fight against TB.

“Back to basics, opening windows and building bigger churches offering more spaces can also help us eliminate TB in society,” said Colane. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was also published in Health24

About the author

Mpho Lekgetho

Mpho Lekgetho is our citizen journalists based in Kuruman at the John Taolo Gaetsewe District in the Northern Cape. She has a qualification in Industrial Psychology from Unisa. Mpho is a former radio presenter at Kurara community radio station. She is currently working as a data collector for HSRC and is also a chairperson of the JTG Civil Society Forum and co-chairs District Aids Council.