BuaNews (Tshwane)

South Africa: Regional Health Campaign on Track - MEC

Durban — The HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign is well on track to achieving its target, with more than 710 000 people having been tested for HIV in KwaZulu-Natal.

The programme, launched in April 2010, set out to test over three million people by the end of June 2011 nationally. The campaign has also identified those people infected with tuberculosis.

In total, 710 650 people have been tested in the province, of which 150 079 were infected with HIV, said MEC for Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who released the department's six-month progress report on Thursday.

"The campaign is gathering momentum and the fact that there are 815 HCT sites across 62 hospitals, 590 clinics, 110 mobiles and 53 non-medical sites certainly augurs well for this campaign," said Dhlomo.

"The figures certainly demonstrate that the campaign is working, even though not at the pace that we would like to see in all our districts. It is also important to note that this campaign has certainly assisted in the integration of programmes that address AIDS and TB. This is a step in the right direction".

The HCT campaign thus far has also led to identifying more people who need access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

"The demand for ART has led to congestion at the facilities... however... the department embarked on a scale-up plan by taking the service down to Primary Health Care (PHC) level, making it more accessible," the MEC said.

By the end of July 2010, 211 PHC clinics were initiating patients on ART. The total number of sites is 300.

"We are also changing the focus from a doctor-driven approach to a nurse-driven one. Currently 500 nurses are undergoing training on Nurse Initiated Management of ART (NIMART) through the University of Stellenbosch. This will see at least 80 percent of PHC clinics offering ART by the end of the financial year," said Dhlomo.

He added that 10 000 males had opted to undergo circumcision in a bid to curb the spread of HIV.

The department would also launch the "Maternal and Child Health - Road Map 2014 for Saving Lives" campaign to address the issue of infant deaths.

The programme will include the provision of basic emergency obstetric care (BEOC) units in key strategic areas, dedicated or specialised ambulances for maternity and paediatric care and mentorship programmes for midwives and nurses.

On the pertinent issue of fraud and corruption, the MEC said 377 alleged cases had been finalised.

Thirty-eight high profile cases have since been investigated, while eight employees have been dismissed. A department official has been imprisoned for seven years after committing fraud by using an official order book to secure a R2.8 million loan from a bank.

"More disturbing is the fact that a number of senior officials are currently being investigated for allegations of fraud and corruption," Dhlomo noted.

The department is expected to stay within its allocated budget for the 2010/11 financial year. It has spent just over R9 million of the R21 billion budget.

Dhlomo said the department had committed to not sitting back but rather contributing to improving quality of life for all, despite its substantial success in many areas.

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