The Department of Health announced the Tuberculosis National Strategic Plan for 2007 – 2011 at the 38th World Conference on Lung Health held recently in Cape Town.
Addressing the media, Mr Thami Mseleku, the department’s Director General, said that “the plan is aimed at strengthening South Africa’s response to the challenge of TB as well as multi drug-resistant (MDR) and extensive drug-resistant (XDR) TB.”
The plan also acknowledges the close connection between TB and HIV/Aids and requires that all TB patients be offered voluntary HIV counselling and testing.
The plan directs that routine culture and first line drug sensitivity testing be done for all high risk groups such as re-treatment TB patients, new TB patients who remain sputum smear-positive after two months, and symptomatic close contacts of confirmed MDR-TB patients.
Second line drug sensitivity testing will be conducted on all confirmed MDR-TB patients.
All confirmed XDR-TB patients are referred to an MDR-TB unit for hospitalisation for a period of at least six months and thereafter discharged for ambulatory care at the nearest health facility with ongoing treatment and psychosocial support provided.
A last resort
“Enforced hospitalisation or quarantine of patients with XDR-TB is only justifiable as a last resort within a human rights framework after all reasonable voluntary measures to isolate the patient have failed,” said Mseleku.
The plan also directs that a package of care for HIV positive patients should include routine screening for TB, treatment for those with TB and TB preventive therapy for those found not to have TB.
“To illustrate that government is serious about curbing the TB epidemic, we have made available to provinces a total of R400 million in this year’s adjustment budget to deal with MDR and XDR-TB,” said Mseleku.
“Clearly government has an important role to play in the fight against TB. However, communities, the private sector and development partners also have critical and complementary roles to play. Without a comprehensive response that includes all of us, we cannot succeed in the fight against TB. We therefore call on all partners to work together to ensure that the number of people that contract TB is significantly decreased within the next five years,” Mseleku concluded. – (Health24)
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For more information on care and support of tuberculosis visit South African National TB Association (SANTA) or phone them on 011 454 0260.