Health Dept calls for innovations, investments in public health sector to eliminate TB

11th December 2023 By: Lumkile Nkomfe - Creamer Media Reporter

Health Dept calls for innovations, investments in public health sector to eliminate TB

Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo

The Deputy Minister of Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has called for greater investments to support the Brics TB Research Network and expressed his support for innovations in therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines driven towards the eradication of tuberculosis (TB).

Dhlomo made his remarks at the opening plenary of the Brics TB Research Network Innovation Summit in Durban, on Monday.

TB has been deemed a substantial public health threat by Dhlomo. He has stressed the need to incentivise the recruitment of programme managers and scientists from Brics countries to develop collaborative research programmes aimed at developing new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for the infectious disease.

“TB remains a pressing concern for South Africa, as it does for all Brics countries and many nations. Approximately 300 000 people are estimated to get TB every year in South Africa. Last year alone, we managed to notify and put 224 000 people on TB treatment regime. Although our infection incidence is declining, we are concerned about the unacceptable death rate among our TB patients,” said Dhlomo.

Although efforts have been made to curtail the incidence of TB through the National Strategic Plan and the antiretroviral programme, Dhlomo noted that HIV continued to serve as a major driver of TB infection with 48% of TB patients living with the virus in 2022.

Conscious of the debilitating impact of Covid-19 on public health programmes, Dhlomo also called for the involvement of all stakeholders, particularly civil society, to advocate for TB testing, prevention and the improvement of data systems.

Dhlomo highlighted the need for impactful deliberations and the deepening of collaborations in a commitment to ending TB in Brics countries.

The fourth day of the summit will include site visits to the Center for AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa and the Africa Health Research Institute to highlight the research being undertaken on TB, and the King Dinuzulu Hospital to underline the service delivery efforts undertaken for patients with TB.

“The sixth South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour survey showed that among people aged 15 years and older living with HIV in South Africa in 2022, 90% were aware of their status, 91% of those were on antiretroviral treatment, and 94% of those on antiretroviral treatment were virally suppressed. Thus, South Africa has made significant progress toward the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets – namely, that by 2025, 95% of all people living with HIV be aware of their HIV status, 95% of those aware of their status be on antiretroviral treatment, and 95% of those on antiretroviral treatment who are living with HIV achieve viral load suppression,” said Dhlomo.