South Africa: Fight against TB yielding positive results

Pretoria – The Gauteng provincial Government’s intensified Tuberculosis (TB) management programme has seen a major improvement in the TB cure rate.
According to a report released during the provincial TB and HIV seminar held earlier this week, more than 81 percent of people who were screened, tested and diagnosed with TB in the province’s public health facilities have been cured.

This is an increase from 64 percent in 2004 to 81 percent in June this year.

Gauteng Department of Health and Social Development MEC Ntombi Mekgwe attributed the positive results to the department’s intensified TB management programme including door-to-door campaigns by Community Health Workers and Directly Observed Treatment Support.

“Through this approach, defaulters were traced and brought back for treatment, this has also helped ensure that more people take the test,” Mekgwe said.

She added that in the 2010/11 financial year, 52 118 new TB cases were diagnosed and the province is expecting the number of cases diagnosed as well as the cure rate to increase in the current financial year because of the introduction of the two Gene-Xpert machines located in Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Edenvale Hospital.

The machines allocated to the province in March this year help shorten the time taken to diagnose TB from two weeks to two hours.

“Between March and November 2011, 16 189 tests have been conducted using Gene-Xpert machine and 2 195 were positive and are currently undergoing treatment,” said the MEC.

During the seminar, the department acknowledged that districts had also intensified efforts of improving TB management by achieving a high cure rate, increasing awareness about the disease, educating people to complete treatment as well as educating communities on infection control.

Mekgwe urged patients on treatment to stay on their treatment and complete the courses thus avoiding Multi-Drug Resistant TB.

“The department’s awareness campaigns emphasize that TB is curable after six months of treatment even with people living with HIV. I would like to appeal to everyone who may have symptoms to seek treatment before it is too late.”

Signs and symptoms of TB are persistent cough for two weeks or more, night sweating, loss of weight, chest pain, coughing up blood, fever, chills, loss of appetite and tiredness.

Source:  BuaNews – 14 Dec 2011