Durban - Five key issues were the point of discussion yesterday at the Health Ministers BRICS meeting at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban.
Briefing media after the meeting, SA Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said these included tuberculosis (TB), universal health coverage, non-communicable diseases, communicable diseases as well as the implementation of international health regulations as stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2005.
He said that as a first in history, there was going to be a United Nations high level, heads of states meeting on TB which was going to be in New York in September.
“This meeting means we are elevating the problem beyond ministers of health to the heads of states because the argument here is that TB is such a problem around the world, it is becoming bigger than ministers of health, and that heads of states must now tackle it."
He said it was important for all heads of states from BRICS countries to go personally to New York and “not delegate ministers or any other person because TB is the number one killer” of all communicable diseases.
“Fifty percent of TB cases in the world are in the five BRICS countries. Secondly we know that 60% of all the people with multi-drug resistance are found in the five BRICS countries,” he said.
Motsoaledi said when it came to universal health coverage, BRICS countries, all in agreement, have adopted a tool that would help evaluate and assess the implementation of universal health coverage for all and BRICS countries.
“The adopted tool will make it possible to trace the progress of countries in implementation.”
He said that also discussed at the meeting was access to medicines and vaccines where it was agreed upon that BRICS countries needed to work together for drug discovery and the development of new drugs for vaccine research and development within BRICS countries.
“This is important especially when it comes to drugs that pertain to diseases like TB where we don’t have reliable vaccines yet or whereby we are still using very primitive drugs and diagnostics, and BRICS countries want to collaborate in producing those."
He said non-communicable diseases, and how to deal with the risk factors associated with these, were also discussed.
“There is an explosion of non-communicable diseases in the world, meaning disease of lifestyle which include high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer as well as chronic lung diseases such as asthma."
He said in 2011, because of this explosion in non-communicable diseases, the UN called a high level meeting to elevate the issue to heads of state.
“Now in New York they are going to be asking for progress in this regard. How far have countries gone in combating non-communicable diseases.The countries are going to be reporting on progress made on what was agreed on in 2011 which included dealing with the four risk factors to non-communicable diseases and these include tobacco, alcohol, poor diet and lack of physical exercise."
Motsoaledi said the last topic ministers discussed was the implementation of International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR 2005).
He explained that WHO came up with IHR 2005 with the goal to control and confine the outbreak of diseases to one locality.