Plans to implement screening
programmes and regional treatment initiatives to combat tuberculosis
with the same fervour as HIV/Aids
are in the pipeline, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday.
"We want to put up programmes to deal
with TB once and for all, and we want to adopt the same strategy that we used
over the past five years to turn the country around in terms of HIV and
Aids," he told reporters in Cape Town.
Motsoaledi said the department planned to
screen all prisoners, all mineworkers and all communities living close to mines
for TB because research had shown these were the three sectors of the
population most vulnerable to the disease.
Read: How to treat TB?
He said regional co-operation in Southern
Africa was vital to combat the spread of TB in the mines because a percentage
of the labour force came from neighbouring states like Lesotho, Swaziland, and
"Unless SADC works together, we will
never defeat the scourge of TB," he said.
Regional TB conference
The department, therefore, planned to have
a regional TB conference in May where Motsoaledi would plead the case for
common treatment protocols, common referral patterns and a common database that
would allow national health departments to follow up on patients, even when
they moved countries.
Motsoaledi used the briefing to defend his
focus on HIV/Aids, which he said had seen him criticised from some quarters as
neglecting other pressing health care issues.
"It was said that I am treating the
department of health to turn into the department of HIV... It was as harsh as
that. I responded by saying I don't understand why South Africans see it that
way. Here is one single disease that has changed life as we used to know it in
Read: Is TB a serious illness?
He said the disease doubled the mortality
rate in nine years and created a staggering increase in the incidence of other
diseases, notably TB, that had earlier been brought under control.
linked to TB
In addition 43% of people with HIV
developed mental health problems, he added.
"Because of HIV/Aids, TB, which the
world thought it has defeated, came back as you know in South Africa. As you
know 80% of the HIV/Aids people are killed by TB."
He said the health department was trying to
resolve the mystery of why the Western Cape ran contrary to established
patterns of HIV and TB. Normally a high incidence of one meant a high incidence
of the other, but the province had the country's highest prevalence of TB and
the lowest prevalence of HIV.
"We do not, and scientists do not
understand the Western Cape because it is the province with the highest
incidence of TB but the lowest incidence of HIV/Aids."
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