Today marks World Tuberculosis Day, a time to reflect on the infectious disease and the challenges faced in fighting it. The World Health Organization says the global number of cases is still rising by around one percent a year despite progress in many parts of the world. It attributes this to the grip the disease has on Africa, where people with immune systems weakened by HIV/AIDS are more likely to catch and fall sick with TB.
Dr. Eyob Tadesse Negussie is an HIV/AIDS specialist who has done extensive research on tuberculosis. He tells English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje many factors contribute to the prevalence of tuberculosis in Africa. He says unemployment is the fate of most Africans who finish school, leaving them with plenty of time in their hands. Dr. Eyob says unemployed youth use their idle time “to engage in a range of activities that adversely affect their health – including drugs and unsafe sex.” He noted the correlation between TB and HIV/AIDS, in that a weakened immune system leaves one vulnerable to TB.
The TB researcher says a major related problem facing Africa is what he calls “the uncontrolled population growth.” He says, “So long as population growth is uncontrolled, there won’t be any improvement in the health and educational services. According to the health expert, uncontrolled population growth will also “keep people poor, exposing them to environmental and health hazards.”
Dr. Eyob says African governments “nominally see tuberculosis as a priority health issue…. but in the end, it’s the trained manpower, the availability and accessibility of resources that determines the level and efficacy of health care services.” The researcher says long-term success depends on the “empowerment and active involvement of communities in TB and other health concerns affecting them.”