About 66% of people in South Africa with tuberculosis do not seek treatment in a country burdened with the illness. A Mail & Guardian report says this is according to the Human Science Research Council’s (HSRC’s) 2018 survey, which looked at the prevalence rate of the disease in adults aged 15 years and above.
The HSRC’s Dr Sizulu Moyo said the survey – which was to have been released last year but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic – found that 68% of those who were HIV negative had TB. It was also found in 82% of those were in the 15 to 24 age group and “by sex, we can see that it was more in males (71.3%) than in females (63.4%)”.
Archbishop Mbulelo Dyasi, the secretary general of the men’s sector at the South African National Aids Council, is quoted in the Mail & Guardian as saying that he was not surprised by the survey’s findings. “As the men’s sector, we had been calling on the government to declare TB a national crisis. We are struggling to get the communities involved in TB programmes because the information is outdated; there are no fresh ideas and new campaigns focused on TB.”
Dyasi said the disease’s stigma prevents people, especially men, from seeking medical care. “Our people still believe that TB is only found in the mining communities. Some even believe that TB no longer exists because there are limited programmes that focus on it.”
The report says the survey also found that two-thirds of those who participated in it did not seek care at any health care facility. These were mostly younger people who were male and were HIV negative. More than 60% of participants said that they did not seek care because they were still planning to do so, 26.6% said their symptoms were not serious and 6.5% said they had no money for transport.
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the socioeconomic conditions for many in the country were a driver in the prevalence rates of TB.
Full Mail & Guardian report (Open access)
HSRC TB Prevalence Survey