On Friday 24 March, Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) marked World TB Day with a community advocacy and awareness event at Nkangala store, Machibini. World TB Day is commemorated annually to raise global awareness about TB and efforts to end the epidemic. It marks the day in 1882 when the bacterium that causes TB was discovered. 

In AHRI’s research setting, lifetime TB disease prevalence is >50% and the annual TB incidence – nearing 1% – is one of the highest in the world.  

Under the theme “Yes! We can end TB” around 200 members of the Machibini community came together to discuss and address challenges they face because of TB, and also to learn more about the disease and how to prevent and treat it. The discussion was facilitated by AHRI’s public engagement team, with guest speakers including AHRI nursing manager, Siphephelo Dlamini; TB survivor and activist, Nkosingiphile Nene; and AHRI clinical trials unit doctor, Ngcebo Mhlongo.  

Dr Mhlongo highlighted the damage that stigma does – and the importance of caring for people who have TB. He commented that TB patients often give up on their treatment because it takes up to six months to complete, often with bad side-effects, and without support and encouragement there is less chance of them completing their treatment and fully recovering.  

In partnership with THINK and the Department of Health, community members were also offered screening for TB, as well as mobile X-rays and other health services.  

AHRI additionally hosted an evening event for healthcare workers, with a specific focus on the burden of TB on the healthcare system. It got underway with a debate, with participants either supporting or opposing the motion: “Yes! We can end TB”.  The debate was followed by movie screening of The Lucky Specials, a feature film set in South Africa and Mozambique about a band’s journey to create a new musical sound – with important public health messaging about TB.  

AHRI was also involved in a district Department of Health (DOH) World TB Day event at Nkundusi hall where all health services were brought to the people. Isbedlela kubantu (bringing the hospital to the people) saw the community of Nkundusi receive treatments beyond TB screening – including dental care, mobile X-ray, vaccines, and chronic treatment – among other services. AHRI supported the event in solidarity with DOH in the fight against TB.