SOUTH AFRICA: Urgent action needed on TB, HIV co-infection

Photo: Department of Health
South Africa's TB programme is slowly improving
JOHANNESBURG, 22 July 2009 (PlusNews) - South Africa's tuberculosis (TB) programme is improving: fewer people are defaulting on treatment, and the cure rate has increased, says a joint review by government and the World Health Organization (WHO).

A review of the TB control programme found that more than 90 percent of patients in some South African clinics were being tested for HIV, but more needed to be done to address TB and HIV co-infection.

Although findings from the review, released by the Department of Health, were largely positive, TB and HIV co-infection still poses the greatest threat to the country's progress in curbing its TB epidemic, said Marcos Espinal, executive secretary of Stop TB, a global partnership to counteract the disease.

About one percent of South Africans fall ill with TB every year, giving the country the second highest rate of new cases in the world, according to Irene Koek, chairperson of the Stop TB coordinating board. She warned that this rate will increase if urgent action is not taken to address co-infection.

"Much progress has been made – TB control is now totally decentralized and available at the primary care level ... [but] this is not the case with antiretroviral (ARV) clinics," she told IRIN/PlusNews. "So a person with TB who needs ARVs may get TB drugs close to home but in some cases will have to walk kilometres to get ARVs."

Among the review's recommendations were increased TB screening for those living with HIV, expanded access to Isoniazid (a preventive TB therapy), and increased TB awareness campaigns throughout the country.

Espinal said the review was yet another demonstration of high-level political will to address South Africa's TB epidemic.

WHO periodically undertakes reviews of national programmes, but only at the behest of governments.


Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, Health & Nutrition, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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