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A steady erosion

HIV is thought to have a kill rate of close to 100%, higher than even the notorious haemorrhagic diseases such as Ebola. But, unlike such virulent attackers, HIV kills its hosts through a steadily attrition of the immune system, giving ample time for new infections to occur. The result is a slow-burning epidemic steadily destroying lives and eroding South Africa's development potential. HIV/AIDS was regarded as effectively untreatable in South Africa. The drugs were too expensive: Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Edwin Cameron had to have financial help to afford the antiretrovirals that have now kept him alive for so many years. Effectively, antiretroviral therapy (ART) was seen as something for the wealthy elite - and, so the argument went, even if it were affordable, then poor and unsophisticated people were unlikely to be able to take it properly.

On the way down

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a country in possession of economic growth will find the health of its citizens improving. But almost uniquely, South Africa's growing financial strength has been accompanied by a fall in key indicators of health. The tie between health and wealth has held true for most of the world, and for as long as there appear to have been economists to notice it. Wealthier countries tend to be healthier at least until they start to encounter the diseases of affluence such as obesity. In South Africa, and some other surrounding countries, this link has broken. South Africa's Gross Domestic Product per capita has increased by an average of 3% per year for the last decade. Yet the most obvious indicators of health are falling. The easiest way to get snapshot of a nation's health is to look at key indicators: life expectancy at birth, maternal mortality and infant mortality. These are such fundamental markers that they were written into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which South Africa signed in 2000.

A healthier future

Rarely in South Africa can a minister have come to power carrying such a weight of expectation as Barbara Hogan. Her first major public speech at the Aids Vaccine Conference in Cape Town in October was greeted with enthusiasm, and even international delegates speculated about the bright future that seems to lie ahead at last for South African healthcare. Her speech was reminiscent of one of those games where one has to bash crocodiles on the head as they pop up apparently randomly through holes in the floor. Politely, and without naming names, Hogan took a baseball bat and bashed all the major crocodiles on the head: Matthias Rath and his vitamins, for instance. Most of all she asserted the fact that HIV causes Aids.

New vaccines to be introduced

Three new vaccines will be introduced into governments expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) at a cost of R1.1 billion, government spokesman Themba Maseko said on Thursday.

Reduced queues, improved maternal health among GPG achievements

The Chronic Medication Distribution Project, which was launched to reduce long queues at clinics and improve maternal and child health, are amongst the achievements the Gauteng Provincial Government can boast about. This is according to MEC for Health Brian Hlongwa, who on Tuesday reflected on the departments achievements over the past six months.

Quick immune system test for HIV positive patients

A single test that enables healthcare workers to obtain results for both the absolute CD4 count and CD4 percentage has been made available throughout Africa. It promises less demand on healthcare resources in countries desperately needing to implement more effective and rapid immune system testing for HIV-positive patients.

Miners face huge HIV challenge

By virtue of the physical nature of their jobs, South African miners receiving treatment for HIV and AIDS are vulnerable to discrimination when they are not at peak performance, because of the drugs' side-effects. This is one of the challenges that workers in the mining sector deal with, as HIV rips through the industry. Benchmarks Foundation estimates that about 16 to 30 percent of mineworkers are HIV-positive, a problem which, according to experts, has yet to receive adequate attention.

Health Ministers to do list, in six months

With just a few months to do the job before the next general election, the new Minister of Health, Barbara Hogan, has her job cut out for her and she is quick to admit that its a tough job ahead one fraught with problems. The Health Minister position has mostly been controversial, largely because of the countrys less than impressive track record in dealing with the issue of HIV/AIDS. Remember the Sarafina! and Virodene scandals under Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first Health Minister in post-apartheid South Africa? The less said about the shenanigans of her successor, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the better. Barbara Hogan, the third Health Minister since 1994 has inherited a legacy that she does not want to continue and there is very little time to prove herself. During this period, she says, her main focus is on two priorities.

Thousands of lives lost in treatment delays

More than 330,000 lives were lost to HIV/AIDS in South Africa between 2000 and 2005 because a feasible and timely antiretroviral (ARV) treatment program was not implemented, according to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. The study was published online by the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS). In addition, an estimated 35,000 babies were born with HIV during that same period in the country because a feasible mother-to-child transmission prophylaxis program using nevirapine (an anti-AIDS drug) was not implemented, the authors write. The paper estimates the consequences of the HIV/AIDS policies followed by the South African government for a five-year period when neighboring countries ramped up their HIV-prevention programs. The paper may have broader implications for the evaluation of consequences of public health programs.

Guide to Measuring Client Satisfaction

Published by: 
Health Systems Trust

A collaborative project between the National Department of Health and the Initiative for Sub-district Support, as part Health Systems Trust

The main objective in undertaking this research study is to develop an instrument that will measure the satisfaction levels of clients utilising hospitals in South Africa. The client satisfaction tool (CS Tool) included in this guide drew on the experience of measuring client satisfaction at two district hospitals, East Griqualand and Usher Memorial Hospital in Kokstad and Gordonia Hospital in Upington. Experience was also drawn from a number of international studies, particularly from Ghana, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.