1 March 2012

South Africa: North West Intensifies TB Case Finding

Pretoria — The North West Department of Health is set to visit households across the province to find people living with Tuberculosis (TB).

Department spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said community healthcare workers, including Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) supporters, nurses and development partners like TB-FREE will this month visit households for TB screening.

During the campaign, people found to have TB will be immediately put on treatment.

Lekgethwane said intensified TB case finding has been identified as one of the key priority areas critical to the success of the department's efforts to promote greater community involvement in disease management.

"TB case finding has proved to be the most effective method of intensifying community education on tuberculosis, improving treatment adherence of all diagnosed patients, and soliciting treatment support for all patients ... by their immediate family members and improving TB outcomes."

The drive was piloted in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District in January 2011.

"The pilot project also covered certain parts of Bojanala and Ngaka Modiri Molema Districts, reaching 4 225 households; 8 618 people were screened for TB, of which 174 were confirmed to have TB and all of them were immediately put on treatment," Lekgethwane said.

Together with the Nelson Mandela Aventis Project for combating TB, known as TB-FREE, the department successfully completed training 797 DOT supporters in 2010. The number was increased in 2011 to 1 547 trained DOTS supporters.

The DOT supporters will provide service in clinics within their communities, where they use 28 dedicated TB vehicles provided by the department to visit TB patients in their homes to make sure that they complete their prescribed treatment.

The department has since recorded a drop in numbers of people refusing to take treatment from 10.8 percent in 2009 to 8.6 percent in 2011.

March has been declared TB Month. To help stop the spread of the disease, the World Health Organisation launched a new plan called the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015: Transforming the Fight - Towards the Elimination of Tuberculosis. The plan identifies all the research gaps that need to be filled to bring rapid TB tests, faster treatment regimens and a fully effective vaccine to market.

The North West will observe World TB Day at an event in Rustenburg on 24 March.

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