Desmond Tutu TB Centre Wins Major International Award


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The Desmond Tutu TB Centre at Stellenbosch University has won the 2012 Stop TB Partnership Kochon Prize for its groundbreaking research on childhood TB.

The Centre was also honoured for pioneering community-based approaches to TB and HIV care.

The prize was presented at the annual Stop TB Symposium, an annual event at the World Conference of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Patron of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said he was honoured that the Centre had been awarded the coveted international prize.

“This generous award will allow us to continue our work saving the lives of children ill with TB and seeking solutions we believe can culminate in a world free of TB,” Tutu said, adding that it was wonderful to see that childhood TB was starting to get the attention it deserved.

The US$ 65,000 Kochon Prize has been awarded annually for the past six years for a highly significant contribution to combating TB, a disease that is curable, but still causes the deaths of 200 children every day.

It’s the first time that the award has been given exclusively for the fight against childhood TB. Tuberculosis is rife in South Africa, with 15% of all TB cases occurring in children.

“The Kochon Prize will help to raise the global profile of childhood TB. Now is the time to take hold of this opportunity to raise awareness of childhood TB. We need ongoing political commitment from governments, the World Health Organisation, research institutes and industry to keep childhood TB on the agenda,” said director of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre’s paediatric programme, Anneke Hesseling.

The Centre runs the world’s first international childhood TB Training programme. Its work has also resulted in more than ten international policy documents on childhood TB.

It conducts high-quality research, including work on achieving shorter, safer and better treatment for children with TB.

The Desmond Tutu TB Centre has a series of outreach projects in the Western Cape, working closely with communities and the Department of Health in integrating research and services.

Hesseling believes that there is finally hope in the fight against childhood TB, but that there is still a lot of work ahead on the TB front, including working towards a better way of diagnosing TB in children and developing an effective TB vaccine that is safe for babies and children.

The Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, Lucica Ditiu, said it was “shameful” that children still died of TB in this day and age.

“Every day, across the world, 200 children die of tuberculosis. This is absolutely shameful, considering that we are in 2012, and it costs less than three (US) cents a day to provide preventive treatment and 50 US cents a day to provide treatment that will cure the disease. But children are often forgotten. The Desmond Tutu TB Centre has been at the forefront of organisations fighting to end the tragedy of TB in children.”