17 July 2009

SA making progress in TB fight

SA is making progress in the control of TB, but needs to place more emphasis on the disease's link with HIV/Aids, the health ministry heard at a meeting with global experts.

South Africa is making progress in controlling and curing Tuberculosis (TB), but needs to place more emphasis on the disease's link with HIV/Aids, the health ministry heard at a meeting with global experts on Friday.

In a statement released after the meeting, health department spokesman Fidel Radebe said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was told that the TB defaulter rate had decreased and the cure rate had increased.

But, Dr Leopold Blanc of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Stop TB Campaign said: "It is, however, vitally important that you look more closely in the area of aggressively addressing TB/HIV co-infection and TB within HIV programmes and infection control".

Motsoaledi was briefed on a review of the country's TB programmes in Pretoria on Friday by a delegation of the Geneva-based Stop TB Partnership, including representatives from WHO, USAID, Foundation For Innovative Diagnostics (FIND), and other groups.

SA commended on TB efforts
The review found that some facilities were still poorly staffed and infection control measures needed more work, there were major improvements on access to TB services like diagnosis and treatment at all health facilities, drugs were generally available, and HIV testing for TB patients had increased beyond 90% in many of the facilities visited.

"The review has, however, called for the management of TB/HIV co-infected patients at the same facilities with effective infection control measures," Radebe said.

It was also recommended that NGOs working on HIV should also work on TB.

However, the review team commended South Africa's progress around TB control. Radebe said Motsoaledi had expressed his confidence in the ability of the country's health system to continue to respond to the TB pandemic even in the context of HIV/Aids.

"We are encouraged by the findings of the review. Moving forward, we have to strengthen the areas that the review draws our attention to. We are grateful to the WHO and other partners for working with us in conducting this review," he said. – (Sapa, July 2009)

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