MPs Urged to Get Tested for TB

All MPs should get themselves tested for TB, the Treatment Action Campaign says.

Several thousand people joined TAC’s march to parliament today to mark World TB Day by handing over a memorandum addressed to the Secretary of Parliament.

“We are marching to ask MPs to show their solidarity with the people by getting tested for TB,” TAC said in the memorandum. “TB has for far too long been a part of how we live and die in South Africa”.

TAC said South Africa had one of the highest rates of TB in the world and TB was the leading cause of death.

One of the marchers, Mbuzeli Siko, said he had been diagnosed with TB in 2005. He had taken treatment for six months and got better, but had later contracted multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB).

“The place that I stay is very dirty and unhealthy and it is easy to get diseases,” said Siko, who lives in the informal settlement of School Site in Philippi. His wife died of TB in 2001.

He told GroundUp he had decided to get tested after coughing uncontrollably for more than seven days and sweating heavily during the night.

“It took me a while to get back to my normal healthy self, but I told myself that I could beat this.”

“When I was diagnosed for the second time with TB, I was really worried, especially when I was told that it was MDR TB,” said Siko, who is HIV positive.

He said he had to take 12 pills a day and had daily injections which were painful. He also had mild side-effects from the pills.

Siko said it helped to be educated about diseases like TB. He said he knew how tough it was to have to adhere to medication.

“What I see as a major problem with people who have TB is the defaulting from medication. Sometimes you find that people in our poor communities do not take their medication because they haven’t eaten and they don’t want to take medication on an empty stomach, that can even cause fainting,” said Siko.

“I think today’s march is very necessary. Hopefully the people in government will hear our calls.”

Carrying banners written things like “Better TB treatment now”, “We die of TB”, “MPs = TB suspects”, marchers burst into song through the streets of Cape Town from Keizersgracht to parliament.

Sonke Gender Justice’s Mthetho Mdekazi told the crowd how he had got TB in prison three times after being moved to three different prisons which were all overcrowded and where he had to sleep on the floor. He had lost his father to TB in 2002, but had told himself that he wouldn’t be like his father and he had fought the disease.

Phumeza Tisile said she had been diagnosed with TB in 2010, and had later suffered from MDR TB and later extensively drug resistant TB (XDR TB). She said it had been a tough time but she had won her battle. She hoped the government would heed the marchers’ calls.

In the memo handed to deputy secretary of parliament Baby Tyawa by TAC member Phumeza Runeyi, TAC and other civil society movements including Sonke, Diamond Life Projects, SPII, SWEAT, the People’s Health Movement, Medecins sans Frontieres, the United Front and the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, called on MPs to test for TB, and to hold relevant government departments accountable for their response to TB.

The organisations called on the department of health to improve access to treatment, including drugs such as bedaquiline and linezolid, on the department of justice and correctional services to deal with overcrowding in prisons, on the department of trade and industry to reform the patent laws so that TB medicines would become affordable, on the departments of mineral resources and public works to improve air quality and ventilation in mines, prisons, hospitals and other public buildings, and on the department of science and technology to increase research into new TB medicines.

The organisations also called for an audit of all public buildings to ensure sufficient infection control.

Source : GroundUp