South Africa: Addressing the high rate of TB

Published: 23 March 2011 14:30 CET

The South African Red Cross Nyanga Centre in the Gugulethu township of Cape Town, despite its dilapidated building, runs one of the most successful Red Cross tuberculosis programmes in South Africa. It has been carrying out home-based care activities for over 15 years, focusing at first on HIV and AIDS, and then integrating TB care as well.

“We saw we had to look at both problems at the same time because of the high co-infection rate between HIV and TB,” explains David Stephens, the South African Red Cross national health and care coordinator.

“In South Africa, 80 per cent of the patients admitted with TB also have HIV. A few years ago, the TB programme was launched, but the problem was getting worse, and more and more people who didn’t have HIV were becoming infected with TB. So we started an education campaign.”

Shirley, who coordinates a team of 15 fellow volunteers in an impoverished neighbourhood where people live in crowded conditions, often without running water or indoor plumbing, describes their work:

“We help people with HIV, TB and MDR-TB, and we have groups for OVCs* and a group for the children’s grannies. We run support groups three days a week, which are so important because people learn from each other and know they are not alone.”

* “Orphans and vulnerable children” (OVCs) is a term often used to describe children who have been infected or otherwise affected by HIV and AIDS.