SA health strategy hailed

30 April 2012 - 02:08 By Katharine Child
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

South Africa's new national strategic plan for health, which will for the first time include treatment of TB alongside HIV, has been hailed for its forward thinking.

Launched this month, the 2012-2015 plan aims to have 3million South Africans on ARVs by 2015.

The plan is an overarching vision for dealing with the Aids and TB epidemics and was agreed to by civil society organisations, academics and government departments.

The previous five-year plan did not include TB treatment as part of its strategy for managing the Aids epidemic.

South Africa has the third-highest TB rate in the world, after India and China. The rate has increased by 400% in the past 15 years.

The national strategic plan for health is intended to halve the TB death rate by 2015, and increase testing for TB and the number of people receiving TB and HIV treatment.

It proposes that all people infected with TB be treated with ARVs, regardless of their CD4 count, in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.

Wits University associate professor Francois Venter said the plan's objectives would become government policy.

The plan - which identifies the "social and structural drivers of HIV and TB", such as living in an informal settlement, alcohol and substance abuse, and migration as risk factors for contracting both HIV and TB - proposes numerous social and economic interventions.

The plan has been criticised by some for the late inclusion of TB treatment.

John Heinrich, chief executive of the SA National Tuberculosis organisation, asked why it had taken so long to recognise that treatment of TB and HIV could not be separated.

Fareed Abdullah, chief executive of the SA National Aids Council, which will monitor the plan's implementation, called the plan's targets "ambitious but achievable".