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Harmonised management of TB could save billions

Southern African countries could realise savings 40 times what they would otherwise spend, if they were to test and treat all mineworkers in the gold and platinum industries for tuberculosis (TB), reports [s]Business Day[/s]. According to preliminary findings from a [b]World Bank[/b] study it would cost about R330m a year to test and treat mineworkers in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique, but that this would result in savings of about R13bn a year in increased productivity and a reduced spread of the disease.

[i]The governments of Lesotho, Mozambique, SA and Swaziland[/i] – attending the landmark ministerial meeting on [i]Harmonising the Response to TB in the Mining Sector[/i], convened by the SA government and led by [b]Deputy-President Kgalema Motlanthe[/b], and supported by the [b]World Bank[/b], the [b]Stop TB Partnership, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria[/b] – have signed a framework for the harmonised management of tuberculosis in the mining sector.

[i]The meeting was an opportunity to put ‘meat on the bones’[/i] of the August 2012 [b]Southern Africa Development Community’s (SADC)[/b][i]Declaration on TB in the Mines[/i]. A [b]Health-e[/b] report notes that as part of the declaration, SADC countries have pledged to establish independent mining ombudsmen to handle health complaints and to classify TB and silicosis among miners as occupational diseases. SADC countries will also adopt regional patient tracking and referral systems to make ensure patients can get care no matter where they are. Traditionally, miners have faced treatment interruptions when moving between the mines and home – and this is also true for the 60% of miners who are native South Africans, cautioned Motsoaledi.

[i]With SA in a state of ‘health emergency’[/i], focus has turned to screening about 500,000 mineworkers and the 600,000 residents of peri-mining communities for indications of TB and the implementation of a number of regional preventive and treatment initiatives. [b]SA Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi[/b] said in a [s]Mining Weekly[/s] report that the R500m initiative, funded by the [b]Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria[/b], would also screen about 150,000 inmates across SA’s 242 correctional facilities for TB. He said, over the next 15 years, SA aim to bring the number of ‘incidents’ – currently at between 2,500 and 3,000 TB cases per 100,000 people – within range of the [b]WHO’s[/b] definition of a health crisis, the threshold of which was 250 per 100,000. With an aggressive testing and treatment initiative, SA could bring down its TB incident rate to 1,000 people by 2029.

[i]Meanwhile, mining giant, [s]Anglo American[/s], says the number of new TB infections at its coal mines has halved in the past two years, reports [s]AllAfrica[/link][/i]. [b]Brian Brink, Anglo American’s chief medical officer[/b], said that the company’s Thermal Coal division, which operates nine coal mines in Mpumalanga and Gauteng, was recording the lowest TB incidence rate in its history.

[link url=http://www.bdlive.co.za/africa/africannews/2014/03/26/mass-tb-tests-would-save-billions]Full Business Day report[/link]
[link url=http://allafrica.com/stories/201403261289.html]World Bank news release[/link]
[link url=http://www.health-e.org.za/2014/03/26/sadc-harmonise-tb-treatment-cross-border-referrals]Full Health-e report[/link]
[link url=http://www.scribd.com/doc/100523250/Final-Draft-SADC-Declaration-on-TB-in-the-Mining-Sector]SADC Declaration[/link]
[link url=http://www.miningweekly.com/article/sas-tb-epidemic-one-of-highest-mining-targeted-2014-03-25]Full Mining Weekly report[/link]
[link url=http://allafrica.com/stories/201403271099.html]Full AllAfrica report[/link]

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