World TB Day: 55 Centers Established Nationally And 300 000 Tests Performed

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South Africa is burdened by one of the worst tuberculosis (TB) epidemics in the world. And, our gold mining industry may well have the highest incidence of TB in the world, with cases ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 per 100,000 miners per year, according to the Department of Health’s 2007 – 2011 strategic plans for TB.
 
The World Health Organization (WHO) declares a health emergency when the TB incidence is 250 per 100,000 per year. This year, South Africa’s main World TB Day commemorative event, hosted by the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) and the Department of Health, will centre on the gold mining industry of Carletonville, Gauteng on 24 March 2012.
 
Partnering with SANAC and the Department of Health, the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) supports the event by providing laboratory services, offering testing for TB using the GeneXpert technology to the miners and other members of the public attending the event. This test facilitates an earlier diagnosis (within 2 hours) than conventional technology. In addition, individuals will be offered HIV testing and if HIV positive a CD4 count will be done on site to facilitate rapid referral to HIV treatment services.
 
To control and eventually bring about a downward turn in TB rates, fast and accurate methods to diagnose this highly infectious disease are essential.
 
Sagie Pillay, CEO of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) said, “The NHLS has prioritsed TB as one of its key programmes in support of the National Department of Health’s strategic objectives. We have already piloted the GeneExpert in all nine provinces and currently have established 55 centers and conducted nearly 300 000 tests to date. With the utilisation of the GeneExpert during the World TB Commemoration event I believe more people, miners in particular, will become aware of their TB status timeously in order to initiate treatment.”
 
The NHLS will use 10 high-tech GeneXpert TB diagnostic instruments (GX16) at the World TB Day event in Carletonville.
 
This technology, which was unveiled in KwaZulu-Natal on World TB Day last year and has been implemented in NHLS laboratories throughout South Africa, has doubled the detection of TB for early diagnosis, speeded up the identification of patients at high risk for multi-drug-resistance (MDR) TB, thus facilitating better access to anti-TB treatment.
 
As the largest diagnostic laboratory service in South Africa, serving more than 80% of our people, the NHLS’s service is already making a huge difference in improving both the diagnosis of TB and HIV. This is critical since approximately 60-70% of TB suspects are HIV positive. The rapid diagnosis of both diseases is essential to ensuring the rapid initiation of both anti-retroviral and anti-tuberculous treatment in individuals who require treatment.
 
Media Contact:
Ms Kaamini Reddy
Executive Manager: Communications, Marketing and PR
Kaamini.reddy@nhls.ac.za or 072 620 6146