Hogan urges regional Aids plan

2009-04-03 18:06

Durban - Health Minister Barbara Hogan on Friday called for a regional plan to deal with the HIV pandemic and tuberculosis.

Addressing more than 4 000 delegates at the fourth South African Aids conference at Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre, Hogan said it was foolish to think that South Africa could scale up prevention and treatment in isolation from its neighbouring countries.

The conference resolved to step-up the testing of HIV, getting patients to seek testing and starting treatment early enough.

"The session on Zimbabwe alerted us to the glaring obvious lack of proper regional referral systems, lack of health passports and inadequate drug harmonisation," said Hogan.

An in-country issue

She was, however, quick to point out that referral was not just a regional issue but it was "an in-country issue particularly for patients already on TB and HIV treatment".

"I hope that the post conference meeting will address the possibility of sound cross-border and regional responses to TB and HIV in conjunction with SADC (Southern African Development Community)," she said.

Hogan said it was worrying that employers who hired migrant workers from countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were not investing sufficiently in proper treatment and in cross-border referral systems for HIV and TB.

"I appeal to employers and the mining sector in particular to respond to these issues in a manner that promotes public health so that we can work together to prevent new TB and DR TB (drug resistant tuberculosis) cases so that we can treat workers appropriately."

It emerged during the conference that Zimbabwe had more than 700 000 patients who needed antiretroviral drugs but had a dire shortage of drugs.

This created a serious possibility of drug resistance as many patients defaulted on their TB and HIV treatment.

Many Zimbabweans illegally crossed into South Africa every day.

Increase prevention, testing and treatment

She also said that government had achieved a lot in the past eight years, but there was a need to increase prevention, testing and treatment efforts.

"We are concerned that too many people in our country still do not know their HIV status and that too many people still do not seek timely treatment and far too many children are not getting diagnosed and treated early enough," she said.

Hogan made a commitment that government would ensure hospitals did not cut antiretroviral services.

"We are aware that health institutions are experiencing real resource constraints. We have already approached and received additional funding from domestic and international donors."

A team of financial experts had been dispatched to help health departments in different provinces to spend money wisely without compromising health standards.

The fifth South African Aids conference will be held in 2011.