TB

SA TB Caucus- work begins!

The first meeting of the Coordinating Body of the SA TB Caucus was held on Friday 23 November. The meeting was co-chaired by Hon. Dunjwa and Hon. Dlamini and a number of decisions were made about the format and work of the caucus going forward.

The caucus has already shown it’s value. Hon. Dlamini called the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHRA) to a parliamentary committee meeting earlier this month to explain the status of the licensing of a paediatric formulation for TB. SAHRA announced that it had just licensed two formulations, meaning that it is now up to the Department of Health to procure the formulations and roll them out. The sooner this happens, the sooner children with TB will have access to child-friendly TB treatment.

Prof Harry Hausler, CEO, explained the history of the Global TB Caucus, the role of the secretariat and how parliamentarians can assist the response to TB. Phumlani Ximiya of the National Department of health gave a presentation on the status of TB in the world and in South Africa.

The meeting was a very welcome start to the important work of the caucus.

Co-chairs of the SA TB Caucus: Hon. Dunjwa (left) and Hon. Dlamini (right)

A plan for Human Rights and Health: Multi-stakeholder meeting maps the way forward

What do human rights have to do with health? If you think about it, quite a lot. Many reasons people don’t access care are a result of human rights violations. These can be anything from a policeman breaking the needle of someone who injects drugs thereby putting them at risk of blood-borne diseases, to someone not wanting to attend a clinic appointment for fear of losing their job. Denying someone health care is itself a violation of a human right.

This was the reason behind a multi-stakeholder meeting held on the 21 and 22 November in Johannesburg. Nearly 100 delegates from civil society organisations around the country gathered to discuss the data on human rights violations and to formulate the steps to generating a national plan that can address them. Completing this task is a critical part of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022.

TB HIV Care was highly visible at the meeting. CEO, Prof Harry Hausler, presented a case study of how human rights violations impact people who inject drugs, with particular reference to the closing of our needle and syringe programme in eThekwini.

Anna Versfeld and Christian Tshimbalanga, independent consultants working with TB HIV Care, presented the findings of the research they have been doing into the barriers people experience when accessing TB services.

It was an intense two days hearing about how much work we still have to do to address a variety of stigma and structural barriers. We look forward to a plan that will move us towards ensuring that no one is left behind, and that health is accessible to all.

Official launch of the South African TB Caucus

TB HIV Care has been appointed to act as the secretariat for the South African TB Caucus. The SA TB Caucus, officially launched on Tuesday, 04 September, is the local chapter of the Global TB Caucus, which consists of over 2 300 parliamentarians from 130 countries around the world.

TB HIV Care was at Parliament on Tuesday where both houses, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, resolved to establish the SA TB Caucus. Once MPs left the chamber they were asked to sign a pledge – publicly declaring their commitment to ending TB in South Africa.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislatures (MPLs) who joined the SA TB Caucus have been asked to:

  • Raise awareness of TB in their constituencies
  • Engage with media to raise awareness of TB
  • Monitor government funding for health and the performance of health programmes
  • Pass legislation that creates an enabling environment for healthcare in general, and TB services in particular

The official launch took place later that night at the Westin Hotel in Cape Town. It was a special evening which brought together TB survivors, ambassadors and TB champions from all walks of life.

Miss South Africa, Tamaryn Green, and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr L Tsenoli, MP, both shared their own personal experiences with TB – as did programme director of the event, media personality Gerry Elsdon. The event hoped to ‘break the stigma’ often associated with TB, by bringing together a number of celebrity TB ambassadors (many of whom have also been affected by the disease). These included Prince Nhlanganiso Zulu, Lira, Kelly Khumalo, Thabo Pelesane, Zolelwa Sifumba, Basetsana Kumalo and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

The event was hosted by Dr Aaron Motsoaledi (Minister of Health) together with Ms Baleka Mbete (Speaker of the National Assembly) and Ms Thandi Modise (Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces), who have agreed to act as patrons of the SA TB Caucus and signed the declaration on stage at the close of the evening.

In the words of Dr Aaron Motsoaledi:

“Members of parliament must be at the centre of challenges that face the citizens they represent. No other battle desperately requires the leadership, advocacy and guidance by parliamentarians than the battle against TB.”

The SA TB Caucus will be well represented at the UN High Level Meeting in New York on 26 September 2018. Now the hard work begins.