“The clock is ticking”: engaging youth on TB developments in the time of COVID-19

26 Mar 2021
A red alarm clock on grass
26 Mar 2021

This World TB Day, CIDRI-Africa collaborated with City Health, WITS RHI, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), TB HIV Care, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) to host 130 learners in iLitha Park, Khayelitsha. The event was part of CIDRI-Africa’s Public Engagement programme and kickstarted our schools engagement project for the year.

Khayelitsha, a township 30km from Cape Town city centre, suffers exceptionally high levels of unemployment and chronic ill-health: in 2015, antenatal HIV prevalence in Khayelitsha was ~30%, and the tuberculosis (TB) case notification rate 917 per 100 000.

As CIDRI-Africa’s key public engagement champion, director Prof. Robert J. Wilkinson spoke to the learners about key developments in TB research. “I feel as though I’ve come full circle,” he said. “Most of you here today are about 17 years old—and that’s how long I’ve been working on TB and HIV research in Khayelitsha.”

Prof. Wilkinson expressed his excitement at the enthusiasm of the future scientists in the audience, and encouraged the learners to reach out to researchers through CIDRI-Africa’s schools engagement project, seek advice, and encourage additional opportunities for engagement. 

The learners were particularly interested in the highly topical issue of vaccine development and asked about TB vaccine development, comparisons with the process for development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, and HIV vaccine trials.

Dr Jen Furin of MSF spoke about work on therapeutic TB treatment and how important social support is for TB patients.

The day was rounded off by WITS RHI’s presentation of their “SheConquers” and “#MyPrEP” projects, followed by a quiz focused on the talks presented by the professionals.

Prof. Wilkinson speaking with the learners at COSAT
Learners received a pack of educational materials