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South Africa TB Treatment Default Rate Declines, Treatment Success Increases, Review Says

South Africa’s tuberculosis treatment default rate has decreased and the treatment success rate has increased, a delegation from the WHO’s Stop TB Partnership said recently, SAPA/IOL reports (7/17). A review of South Africa’s TB program examined the use of DOTS, health system strengthening, TB/HIV collaboration, drug-resistant TB, public-private partnerships and other aspects of the program, according to Africa Science News Service (7/17).

“The review found that some facilities were still poorly staffed and infection control measures needed more work; there were major improvements on access to TB services like diagnosis and treatment at all health facilities; drugs were generally available; and HIV testing for TB patients had increased beyond 90 percent in many of the facilities visited,” writes SAPA/IOL. Fidel Radebe, the South African health department spokesperson, said that the review called for the “management of TB/HIV co-infected patients at the same facilities with effective infection control measures.” It also recommended that NGOs focusing on HIV incorporate TB into their efforts (7/17).

According to Africa Science News Service, Leopold Blanc of the Stop TB Partnership said, “Despite the areas of concern that are still there, we are encouraged by the progress made (by South Africa) in this regard. It’s however vitally important that you look more closely in the area of aggressively addressing TB/HIV co-infection and TB within HIV programes and infection control.” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he was “encouraged” by the review findings, and “[m]oving forward, we have to strengthen around the areas that the review draws our attention to” (7/17).

According to SAPA/IOL, South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the 5th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Cape Town mentioned other areas for improvement, “These include the need for a more coherent strategy for TB/HIV integration, strengthened infection control, strengthening TB control in the mining industry as well as in the correctional services.” Motlanthe also called for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV in South Africa. “South Africa must ensure that we dramatically decrease the number of infants that are infected so that we can indeed have a generation free of AIDS,” Motlanthe said during a recent speech.  He added that the country’s minister of health plans to soon officially launch an “accelerated plan” to reduce HIV/AIDS rates and improve care, treatment and support access (7/19).

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