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DBE hosts Satellite Session at the 7th bi-annual South African TB Conference

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) participated in the 7th bi-annual South African Tuberculosis (TB) Conference held at the Durban International Convention Centre from 13 to 16 September 2022, under the theme, “Working together to get TB control on track”. The aim of the Conference was to call upon key role players to re-energise the TB community through in-person interaction through collaboration to get TB control back on track post COVID-19. Participants were also expected to deliberate a multi-disciplinary approach to the latest advances in TB diagnosis; and treatment and prevention, including discovery, development, and implementation. 

The DBE hosted a Satellite Session, as part of the Conference, through which the role of the education sector in preventing the spread of TB, was highlighted. The session also assisted the DBE in consolidating strategies aimed at advocating for commitment and resources to address the burden of TB amongst school-going adolescents. Researchers and scientists from the Aurum Institute, the University of Stellenbosch’s Desmond Tutu TB Centre, the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), the Centre for Disease Control – South Africa (CDC), the National Department of Health and the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) made valuable presentations during the session. According to research, Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, is spread from person to person through the airborne route. The true burden of TB among adolescents is unclear, but the risk of progression to TB disease increases throughout adolescence, whilst TB prevention and care strategies often overlook this group by grouping them with either children or adults or adolescents who have physiologic, developmental and social characteristics that require dedicated approaches. To provide adequate support to adolescents with TB, treatment requires prolonged adherence to medication which may impact on school attendance, causing perceived TB stigma and social isolation.

Researchers further pointed out that adolescents tend to spend most of their time in school settings, where they gather in groups with prolonged close contact in buildings that may have poor ventilation. Scholar transport, has also been identified as an important contributor to TB transmission, particularly in urban high TB prevalence communities. Dr Graeme Hoddinott, senior researcher at the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the Stellenbosch University, said that TB treatment at the Adolescent and Young Adult Service Centres should be accelerated to avoid prolonged isolation and hospitalisation, which impact negatively on schooling: “TB impacts on the social interaction of adolescents; facilitating access to care through rapid initiation, but then also supporting adherence, is important”.

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