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Fighting HIV and TB in KZN

The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Health is making strides in the fight against HIV and tuberculosis (TB).

Although the province has the highest HIV prevalence in South Africa, with over a quarter of its population living with the disease,

Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the department has made health services more accessible to residents and the impact is evident.

MEC Dhlomo spoke to PSM about the province’s strategy to combat diseases and improve service delivery in the health sector.

 Of the estimated 7.9 million people who are living with HIV in South Africa, more than 4.2 million are receiving treatment and 1.3 million of these are from KZN.

MEC Dhlomo added that about 1 300 HIV-positive people have been placed on antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the province this year. The MEC said the department has reduced the rate of mother-tochild transmissions.

 “In 2008, 20 percent of women who were pregnant would give birth to an HIV-positive baby.

 This has been reduced to 1.2 percent. It’s a wonderful achievement,” he noted.

In 2018, the department also reached its goal of circumcising one million men.

“This will go a long way in helping us fi ght HIV,” said the MEC. Decline in TB With regard to TB,

MEC Dhlomo said KZN has recorded the highest decline in its TB incidence rate,

from 511.3 per 100 000 in the previous fi nancial year to 481 currently.

In addition, TB treatment outcomes have substantially improved over the years.

The treatment success rate in 2009 was 65 percent and, by 2017, this had increased to 88.7 percent. He added that there has also been improved access to multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) services.

 “In 2008, we only had four treatment initiation sites in the province. Now we have about 26,” explained the MEC.

“This has led to the improvement of the MDR-TB treatment rate from 49 percent in 2008 to 60 percent in 2016.

As a result, we have also seen a decline in the death rate caused by MDR-TB from 35 percent in 2008 to 18 percent in 2017.”

 The MEC said South Africa has the most GeneXpert machines in the world, which have greatly assisted in the early diagnosis of TB and MDR-TB to allow for the initiation of TB treatment within 24–48 hours.

Of the 289 GeneXpert machines in the country, about 90 are in KZN and are distributed across the districts in the province.

Over and above ensuring that residents receive healthcare services for HIV and TB, the MEC said his department always encourages all healthcare users to get screened and tested for these ailments. Some of the department’s interventions to fight HIV and TB include:

Fighting cancer Following reports that the provincial department did not have sufficient staff and machinery to treat cancer patients, the MEC said the situation is gradually being turned around.

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