“If TB and HIV are a snake in southern Africa, then the head of the snake is here in South Africa. People come from all over the region to work in our mines and they export TB and HIV, along with their earnings. If we want to kill a snake, we need to hit it on its head.” Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, South Africa
Rates of TB among gold miners are the highest in the world. In 2011, 11% of South African miners were infected with TB compared to an industry average of 5%. So rife is the disease in the mines, that mining activities are estimated to be responsible for around 760,000 new cases each year. That’s one in three of all new cases in the whole of Southern Africa.
These statistics are terrifying and they allude to an epidemic of such proportions that we can genuinely say it is driving the spread of TB around the globe. But that’s all they are; statistics, numbers. Out of context, they don’t mean anything. Number as high as this tells us nothing of the human suffering caused by TB/HIV.
That’s what Yale epidemiologist Jonathan Smith felt, too, when he visited the mines of South Africa. Mere numbers and statistics simply don’t tell us anything about the devastation wreaked by disease. So, instead of carrying on his research and publishing an academic paper which may or may not make any difference in the lives of the miners, he decided instead to make a film about their families, treatment, pasts, hopes and futures; giving a human face to the epidemic.
The film he has produced is called ‘They Go To Die’ and follows the stories of miners sent home from the mines with no continuity of treatment and no resources to access care…..men who were sent home to die. This month we are asking you to arrange a screening of his ground breaking work in your community. Inside this email you’ll find everything you need to make that happen.