Mpuma pledges R6bn for HIV/AIDS fight

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nelspruit - R6.4-billion has been allocated to the Mpumalanga Department of Health to fight TB and HIV/AIDS.

Tabling her R26-billion budget in Nelspruit on Tuesday, finance MEC Pinky Phosa said apart from funding a team that will track down TB treatment defaulters, the money would also be used to provide antiretrovirals to HIV/AIDS patients and reduce the child mortality rate.

Mpumalanga has the second-highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, and 98% of people infected develop TB.

"In order to fight the disease effectively, treatment defaulters needed to be brought in for treatment, especially those being treated for extreme drug-resistant (XDR) and multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB. We will strengthen the TB teams at provincial and district office level for better programme management, support and monitoring," said Phosa.

In the 2010/2011 financial year, tracking teams will get R14.352-million, which will be increased to R15.793-million next year.

On Tuesday, the Mpumalanga HIV/AIDS and TB Association and the eMalahleni Local Municipality held an event to mark March as TB Awareness Month.

Topics under discussion in Emalahleni (formerly Witbank) included the vital need for integrated TB and HIV strategies, the crucial link between TB and nutrition, and TB in a human rights context.

According to statistics from the provincial health department, the rate of TB patients cured increased from 42% in 2004 to 56% in 2006. However, the rate of people defaulting on their six-month treatment remains high at 11%, while the mortality rate of this curable disease is 10%.

"Poor adherence to prescribed medication and interrupted treatment not only fails to cure TB, but often results in multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains which require longer and more complex treatment," said provincial health spokesperson Mpho Gabashane.

He said it was important that communities knew that treatment for TB was available free of charge at all public health facilities.

He also warned patients that it was important to complete their treatment to avoid developing MDR or XDR TB.

"The tracking teams are already in existence and we will strengthen them with this funding," said Gabashane.

The South African National Tuberculosis Association estimates that at least 66% of South Africans are infected with TB, even though most cases are dormant and the carriers are unaware that they are infected.