This year’s theme for World TB Day which is observed on the 24th March 2018 is ‘Wanted: Leaders for a TB free world’. It is a call for people like me and you to play our part in combating TB – no matter how big or small. TB is a curable infectious disease that can attack different organs of the body, particularly the lungs. People contract it by inhaling airborne infected droplets in the air. Most of us have heard of TB – which is one of the oldest known to human-kind and yet we have not been able to completely stop it from spreading. According to the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report published in 2017, TB is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide.
I am a Christian who was brought up in the Apolostic church and every December, members from different branches gather at our headquarters in Ntafufu Village, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. People attend the event to receive prayers for healing, to get jobs, and other challenges they are experiencing. Every night that weekend, we meet to pray until dawn in a mud house called a rondavel.
At last year’s event, my prayer was interrupted by someone coughing uncontrollably behind me. I turned around to see a young woman who looked very ill and was drenched in sweat. Albeit concerned to pray. Then, at the break of dawn, I caught a glimpse of an elderly man with the same demeanour as the woman I saw the night before. His skin glistened with sweat and he struggled to stay on his feet. Suddenly, I noticed several other people coughing, many of them with their mouths uncovered. In that moment, I remembered a radio interview that I heard earlier that year where a doctor gave information about TB and how to prevent it. I remembered the doctor saying one of the measures to prevent the spread of TB was to keep windows at home, work and in cars open for fresh air.
I looked around the hut and saw that the door and all windows were shut. Everybody in that room was inhaling stale air and that instantly made me concerned about how easily TB could be spread in that hut filled with faithful congregants. The doctor on that radio show explained how to prevent the spread of TB and how people infected with the disease could be cured if they completed treatment.
My observations on that warm weekend in December encouraged me to approach the church leaders and talk to them about what I saw. They offered me a slot on the programme to share the little knowledge I had about TB with my fellow church-goers. I also emphasised the importance of getting tested for TB at the local clinic. Completing one’s course of TB treatment is a major challenge in our communities and it delighted me to hear that the church formed a support for TB patients to help address this. You don’t always need to have funding or the endorsement of your organisation to become a leader in your community. Stand up, speak up and do your bit to combat TB! I did my bit, will you?
Visit these sites to get more information about TB: