Services for HIV, TB must be integrated - Motlanthe

Sunday, August 2, 2009
By: 
Chris Bathembu

Johannesburg- There is a need for greater integration of the Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV services in South Africa, given the high co-infection rate of the two diseases, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), Mr Motlanthe said measures including increasing the number of HIV positive patients tested for TB and strengthening infection control would have to be applied to make the plan work.

"It has been proposed that TB becomes part of the agenda for SANAC so that further progress can be made in addressing TB/HIV co-infection in particular," he said.

The meeting, which was called to assess government's progress in addressing South Africa's AIDS pandemic, was the first Mr Motlanthe attended in his capacity as Chairperson of SANAC.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and other role-players in the health sector also attended the meeting.

The Deputy President said a World Health Organisation's (WHO) review of the national TB control programme had found that there was a significant improvement after visiting facilities and districts in all nine provinces.

"Cure rates have improved and defaulter rates are declining," said Mr Motlanthe. He further said over 90 percent of TB patients in South Africa were being tested for HIV.

However, said Mr Motlanthe, the WHO review had established a number of challenges including the need to address gaps in the treatment of drug-resistant TB and shortages of resources in the TB programme.

"SANAC welcomed the review report and agreed that TB should be part of SANAC's agenda and the work of SANAC's structures," he said.

Minister Motsoaledi said his department will be on high alert for a possibility of provinces running out of funds before the end of the financial year for the TB control programme, as it happened in the Free State.

"Its something we will definitely be looking at," he said.

In a bid to minimize infections during the 2010 FIFA World Cup next year, the sport and entertainment sector of SANAC will convene a summit in September to consider how the tournament can be used to ensure a focus on preventative measures.