29 March 2005
South Africa’s fourth TB FREE centre has been launched as part of a five-year, multi-million rand effort to increase the tuberculosis detection and treatment rates in the country.
The opening of the Sizwe TB FREE Centre in Edenvale in Johannesburg follows the opening of similar centres in Kimberley in the Northern Cape, Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal and Klerksdorp in North West.
So far, approximately 2 000 community workers have been trained at these centres in Directly Observed Therapy Short-Course (DOTS) support, an internationally recommended strategy for TB control.
Besides encouraging people to be screened for TB, DOTS supporters provide advice and support to TB patients and, crucially, ensure that they complete their course of medication.
This intervention is vital, as many TB sufferers do not complete their course of medication once they start feeling better, leading to the development of multi-drug resistant TB that is extremely difficult to treat.
TB, once on the decline, has resurfaced as a major threat globally, not only because it is often associated with HIV-Aids co-infection, but also because resources for fighting the disease have been compromised.
According to the World Health Organization, some 15 to 20 million people around the world are suffering from TB, which kills about two million people a year. Only five to six million sufferers receive effective treatment.
An estimated 500 000 South Africans are infected with tuberculosis.
“With the Sizwe Centre in Gauteng, TB FREE trainers and supporters have a base from which they can actively help to improve the situation of TB sufferers and the health of their communities by stopping the spread of a treatable yet unfortunately widespread disease”, said Paula Makatesi, CEO for TB FREE.
TB FREE is a project initiated and funded by Europe-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi-aventis together with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Through the Aventis Foundation, Aanofi-aventis has committed R120-million from 2003 to 2008 for the programme.
The Foundation is cooperating with the health authorities in the country to establish TB FREE centres in all nine provinces, backed up by mobile units to reach remote rural areas.
The organisation intends to open the remaining five centres by the end of 2005, and to have 100 000 DOTS supporters trained by the end of the five-year period, with the aim of taking SA’s tuberculosis screening rate to 70% of new cases, and cure rate to 85% of all cases.