Motsoaledi wants to defeat the scourge of TB

Plans to implement screening programmes and regional treatment initiatives to combat tuberculosis with the same fervour as HIV/Aids are in the pipeline, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday.

"We want to put up programmes to deal with TB once and for all, and we want to adopt the same strategy that we used over the past five years to turn the country around in terms of HIV and Aids," he told reporters in Cape Town.

Motsoaledi said the department planned to screen all prisoners, all mineworkers and all communities living close to mines for TB because research had shown these were the three sectors of the population most vulnerable to the disease.

Read: How to treat TB? 

He said regional co-operation in Southern Africa was vital to combat the spread of TB in the mines because a percentage of the labour force came from neighbouring states like Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique.

"Unless SADC works together, we will never defeat the scourge of TB," he said.

Regional TB conference

The department, therefore, planned to have a regional TB conference in May where Motsoaledi would plead the case for common treatment protocols, common referral patterns and a common database that would allow national health departments to follow up on patients, even when they moved countries.

Motsoaledi used the briefing to defend his focus on HIV/Aids, which he said had seen him criticised from some quarters as neglecting other pressing health care issues.

"It was said that I am treating the department of health to turn into the department of HIV... It was as harsh as that. I responded by saying I don't understand why South Africans see it that way. Here is one single disease that has changed life as we used to know it in the country."

Read: Is TB a serious illness?

He said the disease doubled the mortality rate in nine years and created a staggering increase in the incidence of other diseases, notably TB, that had earlier been brought under control.

HIV linked to TB

In addition 43% of people with HIV developed mental health problems, he added.

"Because of HIV/Aids, TB, which the world thought it has defeated, came back as you know in South Africa. As you know 80% of the HIV/Aids people are killed by TB."

He said the health department was trying to resolve the mystery of why the Western Cape ran contrary to established patterns of HIV and TB. Normally a high incidence of one meant a high incidence of the other, but the province had the country's highest prevalence of TB and the lowest prevalence of HIV.

"We do not, and scientists do not understand the Western Cape because it is the province with the highest incidence of TB but the lowest incidence of HIV/Aids."

Read more:

Screening can miss TB in HIV patients on ART

Revolutionary test for TB poses some challenges

Thousands to be tested for TB in SA

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Eskom has considered continuous load shedding at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'm all for it - we're going to have power cuts regardless, so we might as well have some stability to better plan our lives
45% - 4154 votes
No thanks! I prefer having periods of no load shedding and we cannot normalise this crisis
55% - 5018 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.