The incidence of tuberculosis (per 100000 people) in South Africa was last reported at 981 in 2010, according to a World Bank report published in 2012.
Tuberculosis (TB) is the number one killer of Africans and coloured people in South Africa according to Statistics South Africa in November 2010.
The good news is that Statistics South Africa also reported that the absolute number of deaths in South Africa has fallen for the second year in a row. It is also thought that the rates of new TB infections and deaths per capita have been falling globally for several years but, unfortunately, the total number of new TB cases is still slowly rising due to population growth.
South Africa is ranked third in the world with a TB burden and is one of the 22 high-burden countries that contribute approximately 80% of the total global burden of all TB cases. About 407 000 cases of TB were notified in 2009, with KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape accounting for almost 50% of all cases. Nine of the high TB burden districts in the respective provinces account had about 155 000 TB cases.
TB and HIV
HIV and TB form a lethal combination, each speeding the other's progress. As HIV weakens the immune system, someone who is HIV-positive and infected with TB bacilli is far more vulnerable than someone infected with TB bacilli who is HIV-negative. This makes TB the leading cause of death among people who are HIV-positive.
Pali Lehohla, the Statistician-General at General Statistics South Africa, said that about 80% of TB cases were related to HIV and Aids, but because it was not a notifiable disease (meaning that a death certificate cannot stipulate HIV or Aids as the cause of death), it is not recorded as such.
"Our findings are based on data collected from death certificates, and we don't make assumptions on the underlying causes. But there is a link," said Lehohla.
Lehohla reported that, while TB was recorded as the leading cause of death on the documentation viewed by the statisticians, it did not mean that there were not other underlying causes of deaths.
While the number of HIV and Aids deaths has increased, there was a general decline in the total number of natural (1.7%) and non-natural (2.8%) deaths. More males (51.1%) than females (48.7%) died in 2008, with the median age increasing to about 45 years.