24 March is World TB Day. It’s a day that provides the opportunity for affected persons and the communities in which they live, governments, civil society organisations, healthcare providers, and international partners to call for further action to reach people who have been infected with TB. All partners can help take forward innovative approaches to ensure that everyone suffering from TB has access to diagnosis, treatment and cure.
TB Day on 24 March commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.
At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch's discovery opened the way toward diagnosing and curing tuberculosis.
South Africa is one of the countries with the highest burden of TB, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics giving an estimated incidence of 500 000 cases of active TB in 2011. So about 1% of the population of about 50 million develop active TB disease each year. This is worldwide the third highest incidence of any country after India and China, and the incidence has increased by 400% over the past 15 years.
Out of the 500 000 incident cases in South Africa it is estimated by WHO that about 330 000 (66%) people have both HIV and TB infection.