Rustenburg - The North West has increased its efforts to fight the TB treatment defaulter rate by training almost 800 directly observed therapy (Dot) supporters, who will encourage patients to take their medicine correctly.
The spokesperson of the provincial department of health and social development, Tebogo Lekgethwane, said in a statement on Thursday that the department, together with the Nelson Mandela Aventis Project for Combating TB, successfully completed the training of 797 Dot supporters.
"This training follows a slightly over-recommended defaulter rate of 5% in the past two years. We will probably release the right figures of defaulters next week," said Lekgethwane.
The Dot supporters, who completed their training in January, have been deployed to provide service in clinics within their communities.
"They will be assigned by TB nurses, and patients from within their communities will be allocated to them. They will then assist these patients with continuous support to comply with their treatment requirements to the end," he said.
The Dot supporters will use 28 dedicated vehicles provided by the department to visit TB patients.
"The defaulter rate is a cause for concern in the department because non-compliance to treatment is the major contributing factor to people getting multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extreme drug-resistant (XDR) TB strains," Lekgethwane said.
He said treating MDR/XDR TB was very costly as compared to treating ordinary TB, putting strain on a department already faced with numerous and complex public health challenges.
Lekgethwane said the department was also involved in activities to raise public awareness of TB as part of its build-up to World TB Day, which will be commemorated on March 24 in Pudumong township near Taung.
"The TB management directorate, together with health promoters and volunteers, have since Monday been busy with intensive awareness campaigns in high-risk areas such as taxi ranks," Lekgethwane said.
He also expressed concern over the fact that TB - a curable disease - was still considered an epidemic, causing the deaths of several million people in the world each year.