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The Aurum Institute World TB Day  Press Release

The Aurum Institute World TB Day Press Release

JOHANESBURG (24 MARCH 2022) Today, on World Tuberculosis Day, The Aurum Institute acknowledges the progress made and the challenges that lie ahead in efforts to end tuberculosis (TB). While COVID-19 has had a devastating global impact over the past year, TB has long been the world’s leading infectious disease killer and continues to kill more people in low-and middle-income countries than any other infectious disease.

In South Africa, the Aurum Institute remains committed to supporting the national TB programme, which is entering a new phase of its response. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has recently announced the approval of the fixed dose combination of 3HP, a novel preventive treatment that is taken once weekly for 12 weeks, a game changer in the prevention of TB in South Africa and globally.  South Africa’s national TB Prevention Guidelines, which increase the categories of eligible patients for TB prevention, are at their final stages of government approval with implementation imminent.  Civil society is galvanising in a coordinated manner to support national government to achieve its TB mandate while pressing for action and holding government accountable to its commitments. The Aurum Institute also welcomes the recent appointment of Chief Director for TB at the national Department of Health, Dr Norbert Ndjeka, whose action orientated approach proven in the drug-resistant (DR) TB programme is welcomed to the national TB programme. 

On 24 March 1882 Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism causing tuberculosis, and since 1982, World TB Day is observed each year to build public awareness of the devastating impact of the TB epidemic worldwide.  In 2020, 1,5 million people died from TB globally.  Inadequate investment year after year is no longer acceptable.  Our current global funding gap for TB is US $9 billion. Financial investment is the first crucial step to place TB at the top of everyone’s priority list and concentrate efforts to END TB by 2035. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic having consumed so much energy, resources and time within health programmes, the pandemic has additionally exposed many health system weaknesses within an already fragile system.  Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have caused an additional 100 000 TB deaths between 2019 and 2020, taking us back to 2017 levels.  The disruption has impacted the provision of and access to TB diagnostic and treatment services, reversing the gains made to eliminate TB worldwide.

According to the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD), in South Africa, there was a 48% decline in TB testing and a 33% reduction in newly diagnosed positive persons over a five-week period when services were first interrupted by COVID-19.  The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed much of the gains of the TB programme; the invigorated and palpable enthusiasm among TB policymakers and scientists in South Africa is much needed to recover the national TB programme.   

Aurum has been supporting TB interventions in South Africa for over 20 years and has been at the forefront of generating evidence to inform policy and practice. As the organisation housing the Secretariat of the National TB Think Tank, Aurum has played a leading role in driving the processes of policy and programme recommendations for the Department of Health’s TB Directorate, assisting with evidence-based guidelines and research syntheses to inform policy and implementation. In addition to the expansion of 3HP, the TB Think Tank has also recently worked with the health department to inform the standard operating procedures for targeted universal testing and treatment of populations that are more vulnerable to TB disease. By implementing this new standard operating procedures, South Africa would double the number of people living with HIV who are successfully tested for TB annually, preventing thousands of vulnerable people from severe disease or death and limiting ongoing community transmission. In addition to the work of the TB Think Tank, Aurum is working with PEPFAR to support TB and HIV integration and has recently been selected as a Global Fund partner to further drive improvements in the national TB programme.    Aurum supports innovative interventions grounded in science to inform South African policy through to implementation, where it reaches the most vulnerable - people with TB. With more than 4 100 lives lost globally EVERY DAY due to TB, Aurum supports the call to Invest in TB and Save Lives.

For more information and interview requests: Kanya Ndaki, Communications Director, 0832986100

About The Aurum Institute

Established in 1998, The Aurum Institute is a health impact organisation whose mission is to improve the health of people and developing communities through innovation in global health research, systems, and delivery. It is rooted in Africa and is dedicated to researching, supporting, and implementing innovative, integrated approaches to global health. Its headquarters are in South Africa with offices in the USA, Switzerland, Ghana, Lesotho and Mozambique. The Aurum Institute has developed itself into a leader in the field of TB, HIV and COVID-19, bridging the worlds of research, policy, and implementation for impact.

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