Address by Deputy President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe at the World TB Day, Pollsmoor Management Centre, Cape Town
24 March 2013
Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi;
Minister of Correctional Services, Sbu Ndebele;
Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe;
Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille;
MEC of Health;
Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille;
Deputy Chairperson of SANAC, Steve Letsike;
The Goodwill Ambassador, Yvonne Chaka Chaka;
National Commissioner of Correctional Services, Tom Moyane;
Chairperson of Khayelitsha Development Forum, Michael Benu;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honoured once again to address the World TB Day. A year ago we convened in Carltonville, Gauteng, for the self-same event.
A year later we are meeting here in Pollsmoor prison, one of the country’s largest correctional facilities, for a number of reasons.
Our country faces a big challenge of HIV and TB,
with the highest number of people living with HIV.
We also have the third highest rate of TB infections in the world.
This is because TB is an opportunistic infection that thrives in the presence of a weakened immune system— and in most cases, where the immune system is weakened by HIV.
Reflecting this mutual dependence between HIV and TB, our national response to HIV and AIDS pandemic is thus targeted at TB, especially because unlike HIV, TB is curable.
As such through our country’s health programme, we have increased the allocation of resources to expand access to HIV and TB related health services, and have launched, and successfully implemented, the largest HIV counselling and testing programme in the world.
Reaching out to all the people across the breadth and length of our country, these interventions have contributed to some of the encouraging results we have seen so far. These programmes are alive in rural villages, informal settlements, townships, schools, mines, churches, etc.
In a manner of speaking we have left no facet of life untouched, which is why we have today opted to join the correctional services’ communities to entrench the anti-stigma message that HIV and TB do not discriminate and therefore, our responses shouldn’t too.
As such our HIV and TB campaign and response is all-embracing and respects the rights and dignity of all to have access to quality health services.
We have to fight this scourge together to attain the vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero new vertical transmissions.
Today’s meeting allows us space to reflect on some of the positive milestone we have reached so far.
We launched the National Strategic Plan in 2011, a plan which for the first time targeted HIV and AIDS, TB and Sexually Transmitted diseases, together.
This New Strategic Plan, which sets out a 20 year vision, seeks to bring together all government programmes in a consolidated, all-out assault on the social determinants that create health hazards.
This is because we have through the National Strategic Plan process identified “populations at risk” of infection from TB and HIV, among these are close contact communities such mine and prisons.
As such we are ensuring that:
• All mine workers, particularly in the gold mining sector, are screened and tested for TB and HIV over the next 12 months;
• We equip mine health facilities with GeneXpert technology to ensure rapid testing for TB;
• We upgrade some of the existing health facilities at mines to provide treatment and care for Multidrug resistant and extremely multidrug resistant TB;
• We open mine health facilities to provide care and treatment to peripheral mining communities where access to health care is limited.
Now that we understand the epidemics facing our country much more, our interventions are targeted at HIV and TB key populations, including children, mine workers, migrants, among others.
As such we have a rolling programme to take care of each of these key populations according to their needs. Our National Strategic Plan has integrated these responses.
Correctional facilities are our focal nodes this year given the number of TB infections.
We are thus putting plans in place to tackle this problem by amongst other measures, instituting a seamless system of continuous service from when offenders enter correctional facilities through to their release after correction.
This requires improvement in the screening and testing of inmates upon arrival and at least twice a year during their incarceration.
Those due for release will also be screened and tested and referred to health facilities in their communities for continued care and management.
It is important that there should be no weak links in this chain of health care management, and that closer co-operation between the departments of health and correctional services and other role players, including communities and civil society organizations, is therefore critical.
I am informed that the Department of Health, working together with Correctional Services, has created multi-stakeholder structures that foster co-operation among governmental and non-governmental entities.
From these efforts, a set of guidelines, specifically addressing the management of TB, HIV and AIDS and STIs in correctional facilities has been compiled.
These guidelines will assist health workers to provide the standard of care that is consistent with what is in the public sector, thus making it easier for patients to continue treatment once they are released.
This will significantly shift the burden of care from families and will improve the quality of life.
Important amongst these interventions is the use of the GeneXpert technology we launched in 2011, which is a technology that diagnoses TB much faster (in no more than 2 hours) compared to several days or weeks using old methods.
We are prioritising the roll-out of these machines in correctional facilities, mining and other congregate areas with elevated risks of infection.
Through partnership between government, development partners, civil society and other stakeholders, a GeneXpert machine was installed here at the Pollsmoor Correctional Facility three weeks ago.
Today, we are handing over 6 additional GeneXpert machines to the Department of Correctional Services; these will be distributed among the 6 correctional services regions.
We will improve our capacity to intensify our case finding. Early diagnosis means early enrolment onto treatment programmes and a reduction in chances of infecting others thus significantly improving the overall performance of our TB Control Programme and our National Strategic Plan.
Lastly, let me once again emphasis our confidence in the benefits of GeneXpert as a valuable technology to improve the health of the people in correctional facilities.
We do this because our country believes in a correctional service— a service that envisions the return of rehabilitated offenders to society as healthy and responsible community members.
I would like to acknowledge the contributions of all our development partners in this mammoth task of achieving our collective vision of:
• Zero new infections due to HIV and TB;
• Zero deaths associated with HIV and TB;
• Zero transmission of HIV from mother-to-child;
• Zero stigma related to HIV and AIDS.
To this end, we should consistently encourage all South Africans to make it second nature to continue testing annually so that they may be treated early in the event of testing positive.
With all the hard work and our collective contribution, the vision is attainable - let us achieve it together.
I thank you.