South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland Form Alliance To Fight MDR-TB

Health ministers from Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa said they have formed an alliance to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports.

The health ministers were in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for the annual board meeting of the WHO’s Stop TB Partnership and are also scheduled to have time on Capitol Hill “to state their case for funding,” according to the news service. Their regional plan will draw on the efforts of “employers, unions, labour and immigration ministers as well as health departments in the fight within the regional group, the Southern African Development Community,” the news service reports.

DPA/M&C notes the recent introduction of the GeneXpert TB diagnostic machine in South Africa. Aaron Motsoaledi, the country’s health minister, unveiled the machine “last week in the community of eThekwini.” The news service also highlights the importance of door-to-door efforts in the fight against TB. “In mountainous Lesotho, community workers ride horses to pick up sputum samples for testing and bring patients in for treatment. In Swaziland, TB patients who are no longer contagious use motorcycles,” DPA/M&C writes. Mphu Ramatlapeng, Lesotho’s health minister, said, “There is almost no stigma any more. Almost everyone gets tested for HIV and TB.”  

Lucica Ditiu, a Romanian physician who is director of the Stop TB Partnership, said “transforming the [TB] fight” will be a major challenge over the next few years. “One arrow in her quiver, she said, is the relatively untapped resource of the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China – along with South Africa. Newly advancing economies with increasing political clout, the BRIC countries are also TB and HIV hotspots that need to make sure their own fight is properly funded, and they are helping across borders. ‘We keep looking for traditional donors,’ Ditiu [said]. ‘It’s time to look at non-traditional donors, to see what they can do'” (Reber, 3/30).