Dr. Zolelwa Sifumba courageously speaks out

Today at the Southern Sun Hotel in downtown Cape Town was a press conference launching the Stop TB Global Plan to End TB. Speakers included Cheri Vincent (USAID), José Luis Castro (The Union), Lucica Ditiu (STOP TB), Aaron Motsoaledi (South Africa), Nick Herbert (UK), Eric Goosby (UNAIDS), and Zolelwa Sifumba (TB PROOF, MDR-TB survivor). A few selected comments from the speakers:

  • Aaron Motsoaledi – “We hope that this event in Cape Town makes us wake up to the reality of TB – we can’t afford not to”
  • Aaron Motsoaledi – “The question is, do we have the will? There will never be enough money to tackle disease. We need to prioritize.”
  • Nick Herbert—“If TB had resurged in the west, we’d have new drugs & a vaccine by now. It didn’t, & we don’t.”
  • Zolelwa Sifumba – About stigma: “people started avoiding me” because of stigma of being a doctor/patient with MDR-TB
  • Zolelwa Sifumba – You need to “tell the medical school. If we are going to these wards you need to provide N95 respirators” to the students.
  • Zolelwa Sifumba – MDR-TB treatment was incredibly difficult, but “there is life after MDR-TB. Not everyone is fortunate to make it and survive”

I think the most powerful message was from Dr. Zolelwa Sifumba.

She survived MDR-TB and made the argument that TB transmission in health facilities must stop now. Please learn more about our work in TB Proof.

A few ideas:

  • We need F-A-S-T in every health facility, to identify unsuspected TB cases, and diagnose those patients rapidly and put them on effective treatment.
    • This isn’t that difficult to implement
    • The main intervention is administrative: identifying a person in the emergency room to do cough triage and isolate patients while they await a rapid molecular diagnosis test like Xpert
  • We need environmental controls in every health facility
    • For example natural ventilation and UVGI
  • We need much better TB surveillance among health care workers.
    • Every health care worker diagnosed with active TB should be notified to the national TB program.
    • NTPs should report those #’s to WHO and those numbers should be reported transparently.
    • More health care workers speaking out will reduce stigma
    • TB in health care workers needs to get recognized as an occupational disease. The question of if there will be financial compensation for health care workers who get sick on the job needs to be raised
  • We need activism and advocacy as we try to make health care facilities safer, i.e. TB Proof
  • We need a celebrity spokesperson to make nosocomial TB transmission more visible

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And a few videos from the press conference:

Thanks so much for visiting my website! Writing and reading blog posts does take time and we all know that time is in short supply. You and I will both get much more out of this blog if it leads to dialogue. If you found my post useful and wouldn’t mind leaving a brief comment or sharing on social media, I would be grateful. Or if you’re shy about Tweeting but are willing to email me a comment that I can post anonymously or send an anonymous Surveymonkey, that would be great. My posts are generally written quickly, so if you find any factual or grammatical errors, please do let me know. Best regards, Philip Lederer

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