Media turns our attention to treating TB
TB was put firmly on the news agenda last week with reports from both The Times and Mail & Guardian.
With a great deal of focus on South Africa’s drive to address the HIV epidemic, TB is often overshadowed by HIV news coverage.
The reality is that TB is inextricably linked not only to HIV but to public health in South Africa in general.
According to the latest mortality figures, released in April this year, TB remains the leading cause of deaths in the country, accounting for nearly 12% of all mortalities.
Whilst many TB cases coincide with HIV infection, TB threatens the health of everyone, not just those living with HIV.
This makes ensuring effective and affordable treatment a priority. The increase in drug resistant cases of TB further ups the stakes.
With their reports, both The Times and Mail & Guardian introduced frank and open discussion around the development, supply, availability and effectiveness of TB treatment.
The Timesran a trio of stories, discussing research into the extent of the epidemic; exploring the prevalence of TB among the “middle class”; and weighing the treatment options for drug resistant TB, particularly bypassing patent laws by importing a generic version of an otherwise very costly antibiotic.
The Mail & Guardian chose a different tack, focusing specifically on a TB treatment that was tested in South Africa but is not available locally, owing largely to its high cost. The drug, rifapentine, has shown promising results in this most recent study, when used in conjunction with another treatment, moxifloxacin. That it has not been made available in South Africa is deemed unethical.
Both reports do a good job alerting their audiences to an urgent issue, uncovering complexities and indicating needs that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.