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Local beauty to campaign for TB

Paarl’s Miss South Africa 2018, Tamaryn Green, last week announced she will focus on tuberculosis as the official campaign of her year’s reign. Green herself also spoke publicly for the first time about her own battle with TB in 2015.

Every Miss South Africa title holder has an opportunity during the year of her reign to adopt a cause or launch a campaign, which it is hoped, because of her high profile, will make a difference to the lives of many.

Through her #breakthestigma campaign, TB survivor Green is lending her support to raising awareness of TB nationally and globally, in the hope that those suffering from tuberculosis will come out of the shadows and not feel they’re being stigmatised.

Green – who was a sixth-year medical student at UCT when she took the Miss South Africa crown earlier this year – was diagnosed with occupationally acquired TB three years ago, but failed to share her story because of the stigma associated with it. This made the process of diagnosis and treatment much harder and more traumatic for her.

She will run her campaign in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Department of Health. WHO’s End TB campaign aims to conquer the global TB epidemic, with targets to reduce TB deaths by 95% and to cut new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035, and to ensure no family is burdened with catastrophic expenses arising from the disease. It has set interim milestones for 2020, 2025 and 2030.

“It took me three years to talk about my story,” said Green. “I could have avoided a lot of trauma speaking about it sooner. I am now in the process of dealing with it. I want to encourage people not to be afraid to speak up about their problems and get the help they need. It is the only way we are going to beat TB.

“The power of the Miss SA platform is bigger than I could ever have imagined and I am in a position where my voice can be heard and with that I have an opportunity to help as many people as I can.

“My campaign aims at breaking the stigma around tuberculosis and raising awareness around this global issue. It serves as another working step towards a TB-free world. I chose this cause because I am a survivor of TB.

“In 2015, I was diagnosed with TB and failed to share my story because of the stigma associated with it. This made the process of diagnosis and treatment much harder and more traumatic. TB is one of the top 10 killers worldwide and if telling my story can help reduce that prevalence I will be very happy.”

What are some of the things people should know and understand about TB?

. TB does not discriminate. Anyone can get it. Stigma and discrimination prevent effective diagnosis and treatment.

. TB is a curable disease, yet so many people still die at the hands of this disease every day.

. TB is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs, but can attack other parts of the body, such as the joints, bones, nervous system and lymph nodes.

. TB is a global problem, although underdeveloped countries usually have much higher incidences than developed countries. South Africa has one of the highest reported TB infection rates in the world.

. TB is mainly spread by breathing in airborne bacteria from people with active infectious TB.

. A person can be infected by the TB organism for years without getting sick or spreading the disease. If the immune system is weakened for some reason, latent TB infection can develop into active disease. This can happen to anyone.

. Although TB can be treated, the minimum period required for successful treatment is six months and medication must be taken exactly as prescribed. Failure to complete the treatment regimen may result in the emergence of drug resistant strains of TB. This has already happened in South Africa.

In 2014, the World Health Assembly adopted WHO’s End TB Strategy to eliminate the global TB epidemic by 2035, by reducing 90% of TB cases.

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