South Africa will not meet the tuberculosis cure rate set by the World Health Organisation because of AIDS, experts have warned.
This is in spite of the TB cure rate jumping from 56 percent in 1997 to 62 percent in 1998 and 63 percent in 1999.
The HIV epidemic is causing a massive increase in the number of TB cases, with more than half of tuberculosis patients being HIV-positive.
Although TB is easily cured, even in HIV-positive patients, it is one of the most common causes of death in people with full-blown AIDS.
Last year, the South African National Tuberculosis Association reported more than 20 deaths a month at its Soweto hospital.
The Gauteng Department of Health has estimated that, even if 20 percent of HIV cases are prevented by 2005, the TB caseload in the province will still triple.
Although figures for the TB cure rate in 2000 and last year are not yet available, the acting director of the Health Department's TB control programme believes the cure rate is decreasing.
This means that the World Health Organisation targets of having an 80 percent to 85 percent cure rate by 2005 is unlikely to be met, and the department has opted for a new plan of action featuring closer co-operation between their divisions dealing with HIV and TB.
In Standerton on Wednesday (9 January 2002), Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang officially launched a new medium-term plan to deal with the looming TB crisis.
The plan aims to identify HIV-positive TB patients earlier in order to give them a greater chance of being cured.
By doing this, it is hoped that the World Health Organisation's targets will be met.
Source: The Star, 10 January 2002