Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease affecting the lungs that is spread through droplets in the air from sneezing, speaking, etc. TB is treatable but can lead to serious complications such as back pain, meningitis, and liver problems. TB has been a major issue plaguing Africa, especially South Africa, for years because of poor health services and the emergence of a multi-drug resistant strain of TB. Most people are not even aware they are infected because the symptoms can be very mild. The disease usually occurs in low to middle-income areas and usually affects the homeless, prisoners, and immigrants. Another issue with the TB epidemic is that most of the people being affected are already infected with HIV/AIDS, making TB easier to transmit to those who are already immunocompromised.
The WHO implemented a successful strategy, called DOTS, to help slow down the spread of TB in Africa. The main goal of DOTS is to prevent transmission, prevent illness, and cure active cases. Another organization that has aided in the fight against TB is The Union Against TB and Lung Disease. The Union has helped bring TB research, education, and preventative actions to low and middle-income populations around Africa.
Unfortunately, TB has not been given enough attention by anthropologists. Without knowing the care-seeking behaviors of individuals within a population, it is difficult to properly deliver treatment and education. What we do know is that most people in Africa delay receiving treatment for TB because they fear being infected with AIDS or they believe their illness was caused by witchcraft. Many of these people are not seeking a biological cause for their symptoms because they are under the false impression that their illness is the work of spirits. With additional social science research, we can get a better idea of how to administer and improve treatment for those suffering from TB in Africa.
Shrestha-Kuwahara et al. “Tuberculosis Research and Control.” CDC. Accessed June 29, 2015. https://findtbresources.cdc.gov/material/anthrop_contrib.pd
World Health Organization. “Tuberculosis.” Reviewed March 2015. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs104/en/