Working Together To Build A TB Free Future – We Beat TB (July 2023)

In the fight against tuberculosis (TB), young people are emerging as powerful agents of change. At Impact Drivers, we believe that our adolescents, young women, and men, are the leaders of today and heroes and heroines of the future. On Thursday the 27th of July 2023, young people gathered at the Small World Spaces Studios in Gauteng, South Africa, to discuss youth-friendly TB services and brainstorm innovative ways to make a lasting impact. This blog will be sharing their inspiring insights, improvements, and impactful ideas while shedding light on the potential of the youth to help shape a TB-free future.

Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared TB to be the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer, not only in SA but across the world. This comes to show how important it is to have conversations led by youngsters to allow them to apply their invaluable energy, creativity, and determination to advocate for youth-friendly TB services and strategies to help combat the spread of this infectious disease. 

Our studio shoot brought together a diverse group of young people, such as students from high schools and universities, activists, community leaders, and education professionals. Each participant had a unique story to tell and experiences to share, but they all had one common goal, which was eradicating TB from their communities and beyond. 

Addressing Public Stigmas of TB

During the studio shoot, the participants shared how Public, Self, Perceived, Label, and Health Stigmas remain significant barriers to TB control, preventing many individuals from medical care and adhering to treatment plans. Moreover, they also emphasised on the importance of breaking down these barriers through targeted awareness campaigns and TB educational drives that humanise TB patients and support their journey to recovery. They believed that promoting empathy and understanding may foster a supportive environment where those affected by TB feel comfortable to seek help and those diagnosed, continue taking their treatment. 

Empowering Peer Education

Our young people believe that educating their peers about TB symptoms, prevention, and treatment can lead to increased early detection and timely intervention. As part of their solutions, they suggested conducting interactive workshops in schools, colleges, and community centres, where their own peers can freely start TB-related conversations and receive accurate information.

Innovative Collaborations for Immediate Impact

Collaboration between different sectors and organisations was another important key topic of discussion. The participants agreed that our communities need to form part of the solutions because that’s where we want these conversations to start and grow. The participants also emphasised the need for partnerships between governments, NGOs, healthcare providers, and educational institutions to create a united front against TB. They believed that such partnerships could lead to more effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment initiatives.

Utilising Social Media and Technology for Advocacy

In today’s digital age, social media and technology play a vital role in advocacy efforts. The participants recognised this potential and brainstormed creative ways to leverage social media platforms to raise awareness about TB. They discussed the importance of using our social media as platforms of advocacy, influence, knowledge extension, and development. 

Call for Action:

We call upon the South African Government to commit to multi-sectoral actions, decisive leadership, and accountability – by having high representation on the 18 High-Level Meeting (HLM) with the intention of forming part of the solution of ending the spreading of TB while also prioritising this disease within the Pandemic Preparedness Response Plan. 

Ultimately, the studio shoot was a powerful testament to the potential of young people to drive change in the fight against TB. Their passion, determination, and innovative ideas underscored the urgency of providing youth-friendly TB services and addressing the stigma surrounding the disease. Indeed, by forging collaborations across different sectors, young people can play a pivotal role in combating the spread of TB and working towards a future free of this global deadly disease.

By empowering and supporting our youth, we take a step closer to a healthier and more inclusive tomorrow. Together, let’s stand united against TB and build a future where no one is left behind in the pursuit of good health and well-being. Let us all BEAT TB!

-Chwaita Mpeqeka

Image: Nobathana Tamba (Deputy Director: Health Promotion (TB Programme)] and Gracious Lekgoathi (HER Voice Fund Ambassador for South Africa)

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