TB HIV Care

St George’s Cathedral marks World TB Day with special service

On Sunday, 24 March, St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town was lit up in red to mark World TB Day 2019.

It was part of the Stop TB Partnership’s international campaign to shine a spotlight on tuberculosis: Light up the World in Red to End TB.

St George’s Cathedral was chosen as a symbol of this year’s campaign because South Africa has adopted the “It’s Time” theme, but adapted it to say:

It’s time…for religious leaders, parliamentarians and legislators to lead the fight to end TB in South Africa

This theme was chosen in recognition of the role of faith-based leaders as powerful influencers in South Africa. It is hoped that they can contribute in at least two ways:

  • By exemplifying the principles of acceptance and inclusion that underpin most faiths and welcoming and supporting those affected by TB, thereby combatting stigma associated with the disease; and
  • By contacting their local clinics to invite them to perform health screenings in their congregations.

Earlier in the day, South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, together with the National Assembly Speaker, Ms Baleka Mbete, joined the Anglican Archbishop, Thabo Makgoba and other faith-based leaders, parliamentarians, civil society and TB ambassadors at a special 09h30 service at St George’s Cathedral dedicated to those affected by TB in South Africa.

TB HIV Care was also honoured to be involvement in the national World TB Day commemoration, which took place in Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape on the 28th of March. Simphiwe Sandlana (TB HIV Care’s Stakeholder Manager) joined the provinicial steering committee in the lead up to the event.

The day started with an activation at the taxi rank at highway NU1, Mdantsane and this was followed by a political briefing. The political principals were divided into two groups and were joined by senior DOH Managers to visit either Wesbank Correctional Centre or a household of a TB survivor in Mdantsane.

At Wesbank Correctional Centre, they were provided with an overview of the innovative and creative ways TB is managed within the Correctional Centre. At the household of the TB survivor, the politicians witnessed first-hand how contact tracing and TB screening is conducted.

The World TB Day event was held at Orlando Sports Field, which is adjacent to Sisa Dukashe Stadium. By 07h45, throngs of people were lining up and ready to go through the turnstiles, development partners had pitched their gazebos for HTS services and TB HIV Care had erected tents for testing and screening. Development partners provided HTS services throughout the day.

The formal part of the programme was well attended with the main tent overflowing. The dignitaries who gave messages of support included Mr John Groarke (USAID Mission Director) and Dr Mbulawa Mugabe (UNAIDS Country Director). Both commended the country for its investment and focus on TB programmes and encouraged the attendees to realise that ‘It’s Time…to advocate for TB”. However, the highlight of the day was the keynote address by Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the National Minister of Health.

The essence of Dr Motsoaledi’s speech was that all South Africans should take an interest in knowing their TB status by getting screened and tested for TB. In addition, he emphasised that in households where a member of the family is a confirmed TB patient (or presumptive for TB), all members of the household must be screened and tested for TB.

It was a great day, many thanks to Simphiwe Sandlana and the TB HIV Care teams who helped make it such a success!

BMSF project: The Eastern Cape Community Collaborative Cancer Initiative

On Tuesday, 05 March, TB HIV Care (THC) received a notification of award for an exciting new community project to be implemented in the Eastern Cape from 01 April 2019. 

The Eastern Cape Community Collaborative Cancer Initiative, as the project is known, is the second THC project to be funded by Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF) and marks a notable diversification of the scope of services offered by THC. The overarching goal of the project is to support improved patient outcomes for lung cancer and other common cancers affecting people living in the catchment area of the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, by raising community awareness of lung cancer, promoting and linking people to screening, supporting navigation through the health system as well as supporting palliative and survivorship activities.

This community-based project will link with and support the activities of the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital Oncology Centre of Excellence, which is being supported through a separate funding agreement with BMSF. 

You may be wondering why THC, an organisation that has historically focused on two of the most prevalent infectious diseases impacting South Africans (TB and HIV) would be branching out into lung cancer, so here are some interesting facts:

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in South Africa, accounting for around 16% of all cancer deaths, followed by cervix, breast and prostate cancer.
  • Lung cancer is the second most common cancer affecting South African men and the fourth most common in women.
  • People living with HIV who have access to effective antiretrovirals are living longer lives and co-morbid non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers are becoming an increasing health burden to this group and others. Yet many South Africans have limited awareness of cancer.
  • There is evidence that TB, either active TB or successfully treated TB with resultant lung scarring, is a risk factor for the development of lung cancer.
  • Lung cancer can present with similar clinical symptoms and X-ray changes to TB (incl. unexplained weight loss, a persistent cough, blood-stained sputum) and diagnosis may be delayed if health workers are not aware of the possibility of an alternate diagnosis to TB.

In light of this, we believe that it is important that links between TB and cancer service providers are strengthened and community awareness raised. TB HIV Care is therefore partnering with four community-based organisations (CBOs) in OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts to raise community awareness and support endeavours to equip community-based and primary health care providers with the necessary knowledge and skills to assess risks for lung cancer and refer patients for early screening.


Minister of Health visits TB HIV Care’s Drop-in Centre in eThekwini

Submitted by: Mfezi Mcingana (Key Populations Programme Manager)

TB HIV Care’s Drop-in Centre in eThekwini provides support, healthcare services and treatment to sex workers within our community.

Over the years we have worked hard to ensure that the centre is a safe space for sex workers, where their needs are met and their voices are heard. On the 10th of January 2019, we were able to allow sex workers the chance to voice their fears and daily challenges to a delegation of government representatives.

In attendance were the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Deputy Minister of the South African Police Services (SAPS), Bongani Mkongi, KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, CEO of SANAC, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, police and Department of Health representatives, civil society and the sex worker community. Aiming to eliminate violence against women in general and sex workers in particular, this dialogue had our centre filled to capacity with sex workers who had come to engage with the government and SAPS about their grievances.

The pain and suffering of the community was visible as they took full advantage of the opportunity provided to voice their fears and discuss the hardships that they face on a daily basis (at times as a result of police brutality).

In his address, Dr Motsoaledi highlighted that in eThekwini, the Department of Health is working closely with TB HIV Care, Global Fund and PEPFAR to provide services to the sex worker community, noting that “they are not only providing additional services through mobiles, but are also assisting the department to improve the services that we provide in public clinics.”

He told the audience that “we are testing a fair number of sex workers, but are still not reaching everyone”. He also reiterated that those individuals that are testing negative and are being offered PrEP, are not accepting the service even though they know it will prevent the transmission of HIV.

He highlighted the fact that of all those individuals that test positive, only 55% are on ARVs.  He went on to say that ARVs are “good for the health of people living with HIV and one can enjoy a long healthy life if one continues the medication. However, we also know that those that take their medication are virally suppressed and will not transmit the virus to others.” Dr Motsoaledi went on to say that “it means that we have to work harder to test for HIV and STIs and screening for TB.  Everyone gets access to contraceptives and when one tests positive they are placed on treatment immediately. Secondly, it means consistent use of condoms and if offered, use of PrEP for the duration of the practice of risky sexual behaviour.” The Minister of Health therefore humbly requested that sex workers encourage their colleagues in eThekwini and elsewhere to get tested regularly.

The Minister of Health (MOH) acknowledged that sex workers experience much stigma and discrimination, both at the hands of health workers and some members of SAPS. The Deputy Minister of SAPS and the MEC are working together to ensure that sex workers are not abused by the system.  He encouraged sex workers to report any form of abuse.

In his conclusion, the MOH spoke about drug use. He stated that he understands that many sex workers use drugs to cope with their work and working conditions. However, this increases the chances of violence as well as HIV transmission and forgetting to take medication like ARVs and PrEP. In addition, some sex workers also inject drugs and we know that sharing of needles is the cause of transmission of both HIV and hepatitis. He asked that    “you don’t share needles if you are injecting drugs – rather come to TB HIV Care and request needles and ensure that used needles are disposed of safely, as this can be another major challenge if they are left lying around on the ground. I am sure that colleagues from TB HIV Care will say more about how to deal with these issues safely.”

Massive congratulations to everyone involved!