by Johnny Clegg
In September last year I was shocked to learn that Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death in South Africa.
Over the years many of my friends, including members of my earlier music projects, contracted TB but were thankfully diagnosed early and we were able to help them. Two years ago, the daughter of my French manager contracted TB. When I heard of TB’s deadly impact last year, I began to take interest in this disease and some interesting facts caught my attention. The first is that TB is a bacteria which can live inside a person in a dormant form for years. You contract it through the lungs. However it can spread to your spine, to brain and to your organs. We don’t know what triggers the dormant TB bacteria to wake up and attack the body. The fact is that most people carry this dormant form, but if they are healthy, eat well and their immune systems are strong, they can keep it at bay and live long happy lives. So, I am aware that, like almost everybody, I probably carry the TB bug in its latent form inside my lungs which I use to live, breathe and sing with.
So, we can all potentially get sick with TB, but of course, you are much more likely if you are poor. Poverty is a major driver of the spread of TB as well as overcrowded and unventilated housing and public transport and a lack of good nutrition. For this reason TB is mostly a disease of poor people in poor countries. It is this that makes it so easy for the world to forget about this ancient disease that has killed more people than any other infectious disease in human history. But in the 21st century, TB is both preventable and curable. It needn’t be this way. In 2015, TB should be over but it isn’t and, more importantly, new multi-drug resistant strains have emerged.
I decided to join the fight against TB because it is possible to combat and eradicate this disease if we all are aware of it and how it manifests itself. I also decided to support the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) because I know the energy and vigour that the TAC brought to the long struggle for AIDS treatment. They are now bringing this fight and experience to the war against TB. They have 8000 volunteers as well as full time members on the ground, the organisational structures, and the know-how to help drive this movement. The foundations are there to bring TB out of the shadows and to build a wide and progressive response from all spheres of society.
It’s hard to accept a world which turns a blind eye to TB simply because it mostly affects poor people. For this reason I have decided to engage with and to play a part in our national struggle against TB. I am inviting you to do the same.
Today I am donating R 100,000.00 to the Treatment Action Campaign and on August 18 I will be hosting a concert in Nelson Mandela Theatre, Johannesburg that will aim to raise R1m for TAC’s campaigns to halt the TB epidemic. I challenge others across South Africa to join hands with TAC in taking action against TB, particularly leaders in the corporate world.
For more information contact:
Lotti Rutter, TAC: 081 818 8493
Ngqabutho Mpofu, SECTION27: 083 634 8806
Roddy Quinn, Johnny Clegg’s Manager: 082 829 9950
*updated with 18th August date after original publication.