A boost for the fight against TB
Holzkirchen, Germany, March 20, 2013
Sandoz South Africa provides scooters for health workers to visit patients
The fight against tuberculosis (TB) in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa has received a boost with the launch of the Scooter Project, an initiative of Sandoz South Africa in partnership with the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape.
South Africa ranks number three in the world in terms of TB disease burden with approximately 25 000 people dying from TB annually. The Eastern Cape and specifically the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan municipality has a TB incidence rate which is 24 % higher than the national average.
There are two major challenges in the fight against TB. The first is ensuring early diagnoses in order to initiate early treatment, and the second challenge is ensuring that patients complete the six month treatment cycle. To ensure timely detection and sustained medication, it is important that the health workers, who are at the forefront of the fight against TB, have adequate means of transportation at their disposal to constantly reach out to the affected members of community within their coverage areas.
To help ensure effective outreach and coverage, Sandoz South Africa working in partnership with the Department of Health, has provided scooters to health workers to assist them in visiting people in their homes in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. “The purpose of the project is to increase the detection of new TB cases, and to encourage patients who are on TB medication to complete the six-month course. Many patients stop treatment after couple of months because they feel better, resulting in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, known as MDR TB,” says Carnie van der Linde, Country Head Sandoz South Africa.
In the fight against TB, stigma and misconceptions about the disease are additional obstacles which can be overcomed through education. As there is a high co-infection of HIV and TB, a research study conducted in the Eastern Cape found that many people avoid or delay going to a clinic as they believe that detection of TB inevitably confirms that the patient is also HIV positive. “We know that there is a high co-infection of HIV and TB, however, people should not be afraid to seek help because with appropriate early treatment, TB can be cured,” says Carnie van der Linde. Health workers, being an important community interface, with their enhanced mobility can percolate this message to a wider community.
This initiative of Sandoz is in line with South African Government's five-year (2012 - 2016) National Strategic Plan on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and TB, and supports the provincial plans to revitalise its primary health care programme.
The scooter initiative of Sandoz not only provides a workable solution to a problem, but it is also a very visible demonstration of community involvement and private - public partnership to help eradicate TB.
Health workers from left to right: Ncebakazi Qoba, Mkutazi Monde, Noluthando Nyongwana