South Africa: Pledge to turn tide in the war on TB

Every prisoner in the country will be screened for tuberculosis from next month. If inmates test positive, their families will be tracked and also tested for the disease.

A massive tuberculosis screening programme to the tune of half a billion rand will begin next month, covering three areas of society most vulnerable to the disease, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said yesterday at a briefing held in Pretoria. There are over 150,000 prisoners in South Africa.

“The second group will be the 500 000 miners in our country. All of them will have to be screened and any one of them found to have TB we will have to do a follow up. If possible, even with neighbouring countries of Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland where they come from” Motsoaledi  said.

Thirdly, the department of health has also identified six community districts within SA where intense mining activity breeds the diseases.

These are Lejweleputswa in the Free State, the Kenneth Kaunda and Bojanala districts in the North West province, Carletonville in Gauteng as well as the Waterberg and Sekhukhune districts in Limpopo.

“In all those districts, every single human being will have to be screened as a part of this programme. We will screen kids at school, mineworkers and communities. Anyone visiting a health facility for anything will be asked to subject themselves to be screened for TB,” he said.

“We want this programme to be massive.”

Half-a-million South Africans contract  TB  every year and one in 25 of those are likely to develop a form of the disease that is resistant to treatment. Drug-resistant  TB  kills at least one in five South Africans who get it.

“Unlike HIV/Aids where we know how to prevent it, this is a community disease. Any person with TB can infect 15 others,” said Motsoaledi.

The minister said that those with HIV and silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust, are 18 times more likely to contract TB.

“We have mobilised more resources from within government and donors in order to turn the tide on new TB infections,” said Social Development minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Motsoaledi said that all over the world the mainstay of programmes focus on HIV/Aids and not TB. “We thought that this year, that must change,” he said.

Source: Times LIVE

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By Dominic Skelton

Published: Feb. 16, 2015, 8:32 p.m.

Last updated: Feb. 17, 2015, 12:35 a.m.

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