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MEC Mbombo lights up Parliament

Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, MEC for Health in the Western Cape, lit up a small gathering at the South African Parliament on Tuesday night with a short, rousing speech, and then flicked a switch that lit up the whole building in red.
Welcoming the MEC and Mzwandile Panziso, who was representing the South African National Aids Council (Sanac), Professor Harry Hausler, chief executive officer of TB HIV Care, drew attention to the relevance of the looming 3-week country-wide shutdown starting this Friday in an effort to slow the global pandemic Covid-19. Not that the lack of a crowd at the event to mark World TB Day would have gone unnoticed by anyone there.

Parliament is an appropriate symbol for the campaign as the SA TB Caucus was launched in 2018 as the local chapter of the Global TB Caucus, a collective of over 2300 Members of Parliament from 130 different countries who have committed to championing the political response to TB.
The professor, the MEC and Sanac’s Mr Panziso were not to be put off by the size of the audience, all spoke as if to a crowd of hundreds. That provided a good metaphor for what it is like to be in the frontlines of the battle against TB, which Mbombo described as a “granny” of a disease compared with Covid-19, and even HIV.

It was not for lack of interest that the gathering was kept to a bare minimum, but rather a mark of respect for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s request for South Africans to stay away from gatherings and public places. “The role that political leadership has played in slowing the spread of COVID-19 is clear. It is hoped that a comparable political response, through the SA TB Caucus, can have a similar effect on TB,” said Dr Sandile Buthelezi, CEO of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), secretariat for the SA TB Caucus.

The event, on a beautiful and breathless Cape Town night, had a very surreal quality to it, a small group of activists standing further than arm’s length away from each other, standing up against a killer disease.

We all had Covid-19 numbers fresh in our minds (the number of confirmed cases in South Africa having passed 500 during the day) when Prof Hausler sent a little chill around by mentioning a few TB stats (1.4 million people die a year globally, of 10 million people affected). The reality and the comparison added to the surreal mood at this gathering watched over by the bust of Nelson Mandela.

As TB HIV Care noted in their press release about the event, it is nearly 100 years since the first effective treatment for TB was made available, yet the disease continues to be the leading cause of death in South Africa, with more than 63,000 deaths out of an estimated 301,000 people sick with the disease in 2018. Prof Hausler reminded the group that 175 people die every day from TB in South Africa.
Even in the face of such a harsh reality, you can always count on MEC Mbombo to light things up with her passion and eloquence, and she did not disappoint those gathered for the lighting up of both houses of Parliament.She might have been expected to feel frustrated by all the fuss about Covid-19 when the fight against TB doesn’t get the attention it deserves or the resources it needs, but she said she welcomed it.

“We are not going to waste a good crisis,” she said, and went on to draw parallels between COVID-19 and TB. Dr Mbombo said she felt confident the attention given to Covid-19 would have a beneficial effect in the fight against TB. There are many similarities between treatment for these respiratory diseases, in particular the importance of tracking people who have made contact with sick people.

She added that even the upcoming three-week lockdown to slow the spread of corona virus would be good for the fight against TB.Lighting the South African Parliament in red on World TB Day is part of the Stop TB Partnership’s worldwide initiative to put a spotlight on ending TB by ‘red-lighting’ important landmarks to focus people’s attention on the fight against TB.

The event was organised by TBHIV Care in association with the South African National Aids Council (SANAC). tween corona virus and TB.

Mental Health Awareness during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the management of it may be experienced as stressful by some people, and can have an effect on mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) released advice on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak to help manage fear and anxiety, and the Psychological Society of South Africa (Psyssa) released a statement relating to psychological well-being. Managing your mental health and psychosocial well-being during this time is as important as managing your physical health (WHO).

What is the guidance that is provided?

Be aware of some of the signs/symptoms of stress, which according to the CDC, could include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of coping strategies such as alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Other symptoms could include emotional symptoms (sadness, irritability, anger), body aches and pains, and reduced energy levels.

So what are some of the practical steps that you can take?

Don’t get so wrapped up in thinking about the coronavirus that you forget the essential, healthy practices that affect your well-being and that of your loved ones every day. The WHO and Psyssa advise that you make sure you:

  • Limit the news and be careful what you read – get news from reliable, trusted and reputable sources
  • Maintain a daily routine
  • Engage in self-care strategies – doing things you enjoy such as reading a book or watching a movie
  • Get adequate sleep and maintain a regular sleep routine
  • Keep up with proper nutrition by eating healthy food
  • Drink enough water
  • Engage in physical activity
  • Avoid using coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs
  • Stay connected with your loved ones, including through digital methods to maintain contact, while limiting your exposure to negative social media that could lead to anxiety
  • Look after you wider health needs such as having enough prescription medication
  • Contact a professional for assistance should you feel your mental health is declining

The information provided is a synopsis of the following articles:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html
https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2
https://www.psyssa.com/an-open-statement-by-the-psychological-society-of-south-africa-well-being-during-isolation-and-quarantine/

TB HIV Care Staff Elected to Represent Civil Society on the Western Cape Provincial Council on AIDS

Civil Society from several districts met at the Lentegeur Conference Centre between 04 and 05 March, to engage on the representation of the Western Cape Provincial Council on AIDS at SANAC meetings. It provided sector members with valuable understanding and training on SANAC objectives and procedures but also focused on the election of sector and district leaders and the Provincial Civil Society Forum Chairperson. TB HIV Care represented many of its programmes by standing for election in some of those sectors including women, health professionals, PLHIV, research, sex workers and legal/human rights. On 5 March, the following TB HIV Care staff were elected by their sector members to represent on the Provincial Council on AIDS: Julie MacDonnell as Sector Leader for Legal and Human Rights and Professor Harry Hausler as Sector Leader for research.  Within minutes, Harry was required to vacate that particular leadership post as he was elected as the Civil Society Forum Deputy Chairperson for the Western Cape Provincial Council on AIDS.  The Cape Metro district elected Ndumi Mtshiselwa as their district chairperson.

The Civil Society Forum members then elected Yolaan Andrews as the Resource Mobilisation Committee Convener and Prof Harry Hausler as the Programme Review Committee Convener for the province. TB HIV Care is proud to represent the Western Cape province and will continue to support all sectors and SANAC in its implementation of the National Strategic Plan.