Zero Stigma: World TB Day Awareness Walk at UWC
“Tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death in South Africa, and people need to be made aware of the dangers involved with the spread of this disease. But people also need to know that anyone can get TB, and that it’s perfectly treatable and manageable.”
That was the message delivered by third year University of the Western Cape (UWC) Nursing student, Emli Burger, as part of the School of Nursing’sannual TB Awareness Walk on World TB Day (24 March) 2015. Nursing students from first year all the way to fourth wore and distributed “zero stigma” masks around campus, answering questions the campus community had about the disease.
“The masks were to remind people that anybody can get TB,” said Emli, “and everyone needs and deserves support. TB sufferers need to be able to admit they have the disease and not be discriminated against, and to get the care and treatment they need.”
TB is the biggest killer of HIV-positive patients worldwide - and in South Africa, the leading cause of death of any kind. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of TB infection in the world - estimates range as high as 80% for latent (inactive) infection.
And yet there is a peculiar stigma attached to the disease: many people associate TB with HIV, and treat sufferers as though they deserve what they got - despite the fact that the disease is airborne, and that even the multi-drug-resistant strains can be treated and cured if patients complete their course of medication (unpleasant as that may be).
“World TB Day is important for building public awareness about tuberculosis,” Emli noted. “As nurses and future nurses, we are exposed to TB on a day-to-day basis, and we often have a firsthand look at this stigma, and at the struggles TB sufferers are going through. That’s why we wanted people to understand that a person with TB is no different than you or I, no matter their race, gender, living conditions or income. None of us are exempted.”
“Today went really well,” said Emli, “and there was a lot of engagement and interest in the campus community. But we would like to see more students take part in this campaign in the future, and make sure that we raise awareness on campus and beyond.”
The walk was organised with help from staff from the different Nursing year groups, who walked the walk as well as talked the talk - special thanks went from the students to Mrs Mariam Rosenberg, Mr Jeffrey Hoffman, Mrs Evelyn Bock, Mrs Lydia Richards, Mrs Melitta Selenga and Mrs Portia Bimray.
Want to know more about World TB Day, and why it's so important? Just take a few minutes and visit the official website at http://www.who.int/campaigns/tb-day/2015/event/en/.
And for a handy little guide to TB, courtesy of UWC’s School of Public Health, just click here.