Health experts in the mining industry have launched an intensive campaign to return the industry’s focus to tuberculosis (TB), HIV and noncommunicable diseases. Aspects of these programmes have taken a back seat in recent months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this trend carries major potential costs.
This phenomenon is not unique to the mining industry. A recent article in the Lancet medical journal said “potential impact of the CovidD-19 pandemic on HIV, TB and malaria in low- and middle-income countries” found deaths due to these diseases could increase by up to 10%, 20% and 36% respectively.”
The issue was addressed at a webinar organised by the Masoyise Health Programme last week, addressed by local and international experts.
The programme was launched in 2015 after a call by then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa on government, organised labour and the Minerals Council South Africa to intensify the battle against HIV and TB in the mining industry.
Dr Marijke Wijnroks, chief of staff at the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, observed Covid-19 had affected 75% of services previously devoted to these diseases.
In a similar vein, Dr Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Geneva-based Stop TB Partnership, said her organisation’s study in May this year showed global TB incidence would increase by seven million due to Covid-19. v Dr Balfour is head of health at Minerals Council SA