Plans in place for TB and HIV patients ahead of third wave
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DURBAN - HEALTH MEC Nomagugu Simelane has challenged members of the provincial legislature to use their public standing and influence to become ambassadors in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), which has killed millions of people globally.
The Health Department said that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), people suffering from TB and Covid-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if their TB treatment is interrupted.
It said KwaZulu-Natal had the highest burden of TB and HIV in the country, although the province’s TB notification rate had declined from 1128 per 100 000 population in 2009 to 410 per 100 000 population in 2019. This was still more than twofold what the WHO declared a crisis (200 per 100 000) and too high, given that TB was preventable and curable.
Simelane spoke about a report that was tabled before the legislature last week. “The intention of that report was so that we get buy-in from civil society, and … from the legislators. We were requesting them to become ambassadors of TB in the different constituencies that they are serving,” Simelane said.
“We have requested them to work together with Operation Sukuma Sakhe war rooms in all the wards … to become proper ambassadors, so we can run campaigns together.”
Simelane said one of their biggest worries was the people they had lost in TB and HIV treatment. Those were the people who started taking their treatment but then were lost for a number of reasons. Some were unable to continue because they did not have access to food, while others experienced side effects. She called on those with side effects to go to health facilities and not leave the TB programme.
“Defaulting from treatment is problematic because it can lead to increased TB transmission as well as an increased risk of drug resistance, TB relapse and death,” said Simelane.
According to Dr Norbert Ndjeka, the national Health Department Drug-Resistant TB, TB and HIV director, with the second Covid-19 wave they learnt that some essential services such as TB, HIV, family planning and immunisation had nearly collapsed, and they were preparing and trying to maintain those services with the third wave.
Ndjeka said when South Africa first went into lockdown in March 2020, no one knew how long it would last, therefore there were no proper plans on how to maintain TB, HIV, immunisation services and other services.
He said a plan would have been developed to ensure patients collected antiretroviral treatment and other medicines.
“Much later when we noticed that, for example, the case detection dropped 50% plus in some areas, we then asked provinces and district to develop catch-up plans. So the plans are in place, so that when we go into the third wave there should be a minimum package of care delivered to people,” said Ndjeka.
“We shall monitor implementation and address challenges if there are any. This is still a work in progress.”