25 March 2014

South Africa: Govt Takes Battle Against TB to Prisons, Mines

Pretoria — Government has stepped up its efforts to fight Tuberculosis (TB) in prisons and mines by using GeneXpert technology which detects TB within hours.

"We have started a process to make GeneXpert technology available in these centres, and developed guidelines on the management of TB and HIV.

"All inmates will be screened for TB on admission and exit from Correctional Services facilities, and those with TB signs will be tested, again, using GeneXpert," said the Deputy President and chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council ( SANAC ), Kgalema Motlanthe.

He was addressing a World TB Day event, on Monday, at Kokosi Township, in Carletonville.

GeneXpert enables the diagnosis of TB infection within two hours.

The Deputy President said that as of October 2013, every South African has had access to GeneXpert with South Africa's toll continuing to account for more than 50% of current global GeneXpert tests in the world.

In 2012, government commenced interventions that target populations at high risk of TB infection such as the mineworkers and in 2013 continued with the focus on populations at high risk of TB with the focus on correctional services facilities.

"We were concerned by the high TB infection levels among inmates, which can be more than 400 times than those found in the general population," he said.

This year, the focus will also be on communities that are in close proximity to mines.

"As we focus on peri-mining communities' we will consolidate interventions that we have been implementing since 2011 into a comprehensive response against the TB epidemic, scaling up the response for wider impact.

"We have managed to secure substantial resources from the Global Fund to expand our programmes. We were awarded a grant of about US$54 million, equivalent to more than a billion South African Rand," said the Deputy President.

The resources will help in three critical areas namely:

the decentralisation of Multi Drug Resistant-TB initiation and management of treatment;

increased TB/HIV case finding within Correctional Service Facilities with all of the 242 Correctional facilities being capacitated to provide regular TB and HIV screening and treatment covering all inmates; and

strengthening TB control in the mining sector.

The Deputy President encouraged people to get tested for TB and HIV.

"Knowing one's status enables one to take appropriate measures to maintain health and well-being," he said.

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