City proud recipient of UN award for fight against TB Media Release 05 February 2010

City Health Cape Town was awarded a United Nations Public Service Award in 2009 for its role in combating TB. It won the award in partnership the Provincial Department of Health and the TB/HIV Care Association. The same partners were the joint recipients of an Impumelelo Platinum Award in 2008 for this project.

The incidence of TB had been rising consistently over the last 10 years while cure rates remained static, some of the reasons being that diagnosed patients failed to complete the lengthy treatment or response to treatment was not adequately documented. Nursing staff in health clinics typically come under intense pressure to attend to waiting queues of patients with the result that they tend to overlook both monitoring and recording, with the consequence that many patients get ‘lost’.

An innovative step taken by health officials, was to recruit new staff from among unemployed school leavers and to employ them as TB Assistants and TB Clerks with responsibilities for the monitoring and recording of all TB treatment schedules – thereby also addressing the problem of youth unemployment.

Cllr James Vos, Chairperson of the Health Portfolio Committee, said he was very proud of this achievement, but also highlighted that the hard work needs to be maintained and improved.  Vos added that in the view of the multiple factors contributing to the HIV/Aids and TB pandemics and the sheer scope and impact of these, it is clear that turning the tide requires the involvement of all sectors.  “

Cape Town continues to have an extremely high number of TB cases with 28 956 reported cases in 2009 and an incidence rate of 877 per 100 000 (compared with a national figure of about 500 per 100 000).

 Factors that fuel TB in Cape Town include:

  • Poverty
  • Urbanization with resultant overcrowding
  • Damp, poorly ventilated houses/shacks
  • High HIV prevalence
  • Clients presenting or being identified late in the course of the disease (so can infect many others before treatment)
  • Poor treatment outcomes due to treatment interruption (defaulters)
  • Substance abuse
  • Smoking

Despite this high incidence rate, the City managed to achieve the best cure rate for TB, almost 80%, out of all Metro’s in the country last year. “Improvements in TB outcomes have been achieved in the last number of years, which need to be maintained or further strengthened at some sites. There is a high co-infection rate with HIV, so integration with HIV care is important,” said Vos.

Media enquiries: Cllr James Vos, Chairperson for the Health Portfolio Committee. Tel: 021 590 1680 or Cell: 083 640 7640