NEIL KIRBY: Is Africa closer to meeting its health targets?

IN 2000, the leaders of 189 nations signed the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations (UN), pledging to free their people from poverty, illiteracy and ill health. This commitment gave rise to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the target date for the achievement of which is 2015.

The eight goals are to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

No new HIV infections in 20 years - Motlanthe

The government plans to bring down new HIV infection rates to zero in the next 20 years, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Saturday.

Motlanthe was addressing workers and dignitaries at the Goldfields mine in Carletonville, Gauteng on the occasion of world tuberculosis (TB) day.

He said the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections (STI) would aim at eliminating new HIV and TB infections, mother to child HIV infections, and have zero preventable deaths as well as discrimination associated with the two viruses.

Drug-resistant strains of TB out of control, warn experts

The fight against new, antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis has already been lost in some parts of the world, according to a senior World Health Organisation expert. Figures show a 5% rise in the number of new cases of the highly infectious disease in the UK.

Dr Paul Nunn, head of the WHO's global TB response team, is leading the efforts against multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). Nunn said that, while TB is preventable and curable, a combination of bad management and misdiagnosis was leaving pharmaceutical companies struggling to keep up. Meanwhile, the disease kills millions every year.

SA makes good strides in TB treatment

South Africa has made much progress in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in recent years. However, national health spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said that much more still needed to be done to ease the burden of the disease.

“We are working hard to reach the targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals,” he said.

Hadebe wouldn’t say much about South Africa’s progress in reaching the 2015 targets. He said thatt the matter would be addressed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Saturday during World TB Day.

Despite advances made in the access to TB treatment, the disease is now the leading cause of death in the country.

North West first province to cure XDR TB

The North West province has become the first province in the country to cure a patient who was suffering from Extremely Drug Resistant (XDR) Tuberculosis (TB).

Provincial Department of Health spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane announced on Tuesday that the department recorded the first case in the middle of last year, but had to wait for a confirmation from the national department that the patient had not lapsed.

"We are happy to announce that we are the first province to successfully cure XDR TB. The national department of health's Communicable Disease Directorate only confirmed this at the beginning of March because the patient was still being monitored to make sure he does not lapse," said Lekgethwane.

Chronic disease and trauma plague SA health system

HIV may be the most immediate threat to healthcare in the country but health data gathered from hospitals around the country shows that violence and lifestyle diseases are taking a grievous toll on the health system.

The District Health Barometer, released in Pretoria on Thursday alongside the latest edition of the South African Health Review, showed that outside of HIV/Aids and opportunistic infections associated with it, such as tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease, the leading cause of premature death in the country is transport injury.

Free State: Health sector to be revitalised with 10-Point Plan

Health MEC Fezi Ngubentombi and her department kicked off the 2011-2012 financial year on a high note, promising to revitalise the health sector and inject new funds in the health sector that previously saw hospitals and clinics running out of essential drugs.

As a starting point, she promised to launch or relaunch forums that she saw as vital partners in the provision of health in the province, and more importantly, the Traditional Healers Forum and the district health councils of Lejweleputswa, Motheo and Thabo Mofutsanyana, as well as breathe new life into hospital boards and clinic committees of the same districts, among others.

Global Fund chief quits after funding cuts

The head of the Global Fund, the largest backer of the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, will step down in March after a misuse of funds led it to cut back on new grants to battle the diseases.

Michel Kazatchkine has been the Global Fund's executive director for five years, half its life, but was sidelined in November after the organisation said it would be forced to cut grants and was bringing in a new manager.

The Fund said it had appointed Gabriel Jaramillo, a Brazilian former banker, as general manager.

The public-private Global Fund, based in Geneva, accounts for around a quarter of international financing to fight HIV and AIDS, as well as the majority of funds to fight TB and malaria.

KwaZulu-Natal to prioritise health infrastructure

THE department of health in KwaZulu-Natal planned to fast-track infrastructure development and hospital revitalisation projects this year, health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said yesterday.

The province suffers from a disproportionately high incidence of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and has a large rural population, many of whom live a long way from proper healthcare facilities.

Dr Dhlomo said this year would be groundbreaking for the healthcare sector nationally as "we will be introducing the long-awaited National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme ".

He said districts had social mobilisation and communication plans to popularise the NHI at community levels, while the hospital management programme would be fast-tracked.

MCC Fights AIDS and Tuberculosis in Lesotho

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), through its partnership with the Millennium Challenge Account–Lesotho, is helping Lesotho address key challenges in its health sector through a $122 million investment in health infrastructure and health systems.

More than 720,000 Basotho are expected to benefit from the MCC health project over the next 20 years. MCC described the ways its investment in health is helping in Lesotho in a December 1 press release.