Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s deadliest, yet preventable, communicable diseases and remains a significant problem in the African Region. Every year, there is an estimated 9 million new TB cases worldwide but consistently 3 million cases are either not diagnosed, not treated, or are diagnosed and not registered by national TB control programmes.
These vulnerable populations include children and women, people living with HIV, people with diabetes, refugees, miners and ex-miners, prisoners and drug users whose access to basic health care services may be limited. The poor are also at risk, especially homeless persons and individuals living in densely populated communities.
Children can get TB at any age, but the most common age is between one and four years. The source of infection is often an infectious adult that is in a child’s close environment. A TB-infected adult often lives in vulnerable communities such as migrants, miners, prisoners, drug users and sex workers whose access to basic health care services may be limited.
The HIV pandemic also threatens TB control efforts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Wherever children are at risk of HIV infection, the HIV-infected children are at risk of TB. Overall, 34% of TB cases are estimated to be co-infected with HIV in the African Region. In parts of southern Africa, more than 50% of TB cases are co-infected with HIV.
TB is a treatable and curable disease. Active, drug-sensitive TB is treated with a standard six-month regimen of four antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support by a qualified health care worker or trained volunteer.
As a minimum, all HIV-infected children should be screened for TB and all children with TB should be offered HIV testing and counselling in high HIV prevalence settings. Irrespective of age, all HIV-infected children who are household contacts of infectious TB cases should be evaluated for TB disease and treated.
World TB Day is commemorated on 24 March each year to raise awareness about the burden of tuberculosis (TB) and the status of TB prevention and care efforts. It is also an opportunity to mobilise political and social commitment for further progress in efforts to end TB.
The theme for this year remains the same as last year: “Unite to End TB”, but with a special focus on “Leaving no one behind” in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Have you ever had a TB test done? Are you free from TB?