HIV & TB Response

Media Statement: TB crisis in South Africa – less talk, more action needed to reduce deaths

TB advocates across South Africa have used World TB Day to call out the government for failing in their responsibility to prioritise TB and not taking enough action on TB service deliverables.

The Treatment Action Campaign and the TB Accountability Consortium are concerned about the lack of progress with the rollout of TB services across the country –  and are calling on the government to fully capacitate the country’s National TB programme to lead and coordinate the implementation of its national TB strategies and guidelines.

While we acknowledge that some gains have been made, it is also important for the government to become more transparent and accountable around TB.

Our organisations have jointly called on the national government to declare TB a national health emergency and give it the priority it deserves.  Last week hundreds of activists marched to the National Department of Health today to impel this imperative on the state.

The group marched from Heartfelt Arena in Tshwane to the National Department of Health to hand over a memorandum to officials, highlighting the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who are affected by TB.

Despite being treatable, TB remains a significant public health threat – it is South Africa’s biggest killer, with more than 54,000 people dying annually – 31, 000 of them people living with HIV – and an estimated 280,000 infected each year.

South Africa officially marked World TB Day in Evaton, Gauteng where Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the country had made some progress with its TB interventions, however, the challenge is still high.  

He reflected on the five year National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs launched in 2023 and emphasised the need to still find TB patients and address the detection gap when it comes to male friendly services. 

TBAC Programme Manager Russell Rensburg said: “As we move into the next administration, our goal today was really for TB to be a political priority. We are not trying to underscore the achievements that have been made because they have been significant, but we have this constitutional right of the right to healthcare, the obligation is to progressively realise, and with progressive realisation, we have to start with the people with the least access,” Rensburg said.

TAC Chairperson Sibongile Tshabalala said: “As the country marks 30 years of democracy, access to TB services is actually a realisation of the right to health enshrined in the Constitution and in the National Health Act. People living with TB in South Africa deserve the right to health.“

In the memorandum that the organisations handed over to Health Department, there were four key asks:

1.⁠ Safeguard TB funding within increased District Health Services allocation: The government possesses powers to ringfence funding allocations including the TB Recovery Plan.

 2.⁠ ⁠Enhance accountability:  Government has to refocus its Constitutional obligations in progressively realising the right to health for all and for setting out frameworks that will save lives. 54 000 people living in South Africa should not be the casualties for the government failing this mandate.

 3.⁠ Strengthen bi-directional decision making: With all the information afforded to us, the government needs to do better in improving multi-sectoral engagements. Ensuring that communities are in the rooms where decisions are made. As referenced in the 2023 TBAC State of TB Report, bi-directional decision-making is the only way to realise the National Strategic Plan for HIV/TB & STI’s 2023-2028. Let communities lead, let the data be available for communities affected.

4. Strengthen political will: The Deputy President as the Chairperson of SANAC must provide effective political leadership to ensure that our NSP is a living document and we meet our targets on HIV and TB treatment.

The calls to address this pressing health emergency were first made in 2021 by the

Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). To date, however, no significant action has been taken.

The Consortium is a collective of organisations fighting the scourge of TB in South Africa’s public health sector. We are made up of advocates, activists, community leaders and researchers and we see firsthand the challenges around TB in South Africa.

For more information call: RHAP Communications Officer Palesa Chidi on 078 625 0511 | or Xabisa Qwabe TAC Communication Coordinator on 076 850 6736 |