Although tuberculosis (TB) deaths fell by 22% between 2000-2015, TB remains one of the top ten leading causes of death worldwide. In 2015 1.8 million people died from TB including 400 000 people with TB and HIV co-infection (WHO). The disease is the major cause of death among people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
The 2016 Global Tuberculosis Report notes that while there have been significant achievements in addressing TB, important diagnostic and treatment gaps persist. Workplace HIV and AIDS programmes can make a difference in accelerating the impact of the global TB response. This can be through; ensuring healthy well ventilated work spaces, providing screening and treatment for employees and their families, educating workers and communities on modifiable risk factors and offering disease management and support programmes for those affected with TB in the workplace.
SWHAP joins the rest of the world in commemorating World TB day under the theme “Unite to end TB”. Ending TB by 2035 is everyone’s responsibility. As the example from one of our partner’s in South Africa shows this is not just a job for management, we can all do something.
Peer Educators addressing TB stigma
South Africa is one of six countries in the world with the highest TB burden. The country also has the highest HIV burden in the world, and over 70% of people living with HIV there are co-infected with TB. HIV fuels the TB epidemic as a weakened immune system allows for the development of TB. This association with HIV often results in stigma towards people suspected of having TB. A situation that Tarryn, a Peer Educator from Babcock was confronted with.
Last year we had a case of an employee who was suspected of having TB by colleagues. The colleagues had subsequently reported their “concerns of being coughed on” to their line manager. Understandably the employee was very distressed when she discovered what was happening and approached me as a Peer Educator for help.
With the help of the company service provider I organised an awareness session on TB and HIV at the workplace. Over several sessions we managed to speak to 170 employees explaining that TB is not HIV, that it is curable, and that the stigma around TB and HIV can be detrimental to people infected or affected by the diseases.
A few weeks after the awareness session the employee reported back to me that people were treating her so much better and that she felt that Babcock really cared about her as an individual.
In the two years since we started implementing a holistic wellness programme I have seen positive growth in the programme and realise how important the programme is for both the company and the employees. I have observed more employees testing, participating in the programme and giving feedback. Employee morale and productivity have increased and this has had a positive impact in our workplace.
Download a printable TB fact sheet