'Aggressive' plan to stamp out killer TB worldwide in 15 years
About 4400 people are infected with tuberculosis across the globe every day and 1.5million people die from it each year - more than the number killed by Aids.
Yet it receives much less attention, said Eric Goosby, the UN special envoy for TB.
But that could soon change, with Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi leading the charge in implementing a new global plan to tackle the disease more aggressively.
Motsoaledi, who is in charge of the Stop TB Partnership, said yesterday it was "unprecedented" that more than 600 MPs from 101 countries have already endorsed and helped launch the new Global Plan to End TB, which was announced in Cape Town yesterday ahead of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease's 46th World Conference on Lung Health.
This new plan, called the Paradigm Shift, aims to eradicate TB by 2030. It starts with a bold four-year strategy that kicks off next year. At the current rate it would take an estimated 180 years to eliminate the disease.
The strategy is to reach 90% of all people who need TB treatment and to achieve at least 90% treatment success.
It is hoped that this will be achieved by the investment of more money in fighting the disease, universal health coverage and fast-tracking the introduction of diagnostic tools where they are needed most.
Zolelwa Sifumba, a UCT medical student who contracted multidrug-resistant TB from a patient during her studies, said: "It is an airborne disease and anybody can get it. I was in denial about my condition when I was diagnosed."
Sifumba said she was stigmatised and found the treatment to be physically and emotionally gruelling, but now that she is cured she wants to encourage others to join the fight.
"This disease is everyone's problem. It belongs to us all."