Outreach at Block A.K Homeless Shelter in Durban encourages residents to screen and test for TB

In June 2021, the USAID TB LON-SAFT Programme implemented by THINK conducted a TB Screening Outreach campaign at the Block A.K Homeless Shelter in Durban in collaboration with the eThekwini Municipality, Beatrice Street Primary Health Care (PHC) facility and Stop TB Partnership. The campaign was initiated by the THINK Programme team after learning about a resident from the shelter who was diagnosed and initiated on treatment at the Beatrice PHC the month before. Two other residents were also being treated for TB.

Block A.K Homeless Shelter is a charity dependent residence for homeless people that is managed by the eThekwini Municipality. The shelter provides daily food donations to a total of 60 permanent residents. The shelter mainly consists of tents and is highly congested and over-crowded with poor hygiene and ventilation – all conducive to the spread of TB. Undiagnosed and untreated TB patients in this environment may spread TB rapidly among shelter dwellers leading to a very high TB positivity rate, in addition to spreading COVID-19.

The USAID TB LON-SAFT Programme’s TB screening and testing campaign aimed to provide screening and educational services to all residents at the shelter. COVID-19 regulations were complied with to prevent the potential spread of the infection including social distancing, the wearing of masks and hand sanitizing.

The campaign commenced with a professional nurse mentor from THINK conducting TB health education and disseminating Information Education and Communication (IEC) material about TB. The health education, delivered in iSizulu, the local language, was followed by TB screening of the shelter dwellers in attendance. Due to the recently diagnosed TB patients at the shelter, all remaining shelter dwellers were treated as household contacts, and tested for TB irrespective of TB signs and symptoms. An area, away from the screening section was identified for sputum collection and participants were escorted to this designated area to produce sputum for testing.

“We are grateful that the USAID TB LON-SAFT Programme has visited us and given our beneficiaries TB information and TB testing. Our shelter is neglected, we are operating without financial support. There is only one NGO giving our beneficiary one or two meals per day. We thought the shelter was forgotten, but we are happy that your Programme is here with a health event​.”  – Shelter manager.

In total, 44 residents were screened of which four were symptomatic, 41 were tested but none tested positive for TB at that time. The shelter residents who presented with TB signs and symptoms during the campaign are being followed up. The TB health education was well received and the participants thoroughly engaged and learned about TB and COVID-19. Moreover, ways in which the spread of airborne disease can be prevented in this setting were discussed.  In summary, a positive relationship with the shelter has now been established and will continue enabling the diagnosis of any newly symptomatic residents for testing in future.

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