Relentless Spread of HIV and TB Afflict South Africa

Government response so far based on denial, lack of political will, poor policy implementation
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The dual epidemics of HIV and tuberculosis continue to spread relentlessly in South Africa, and require an urgent scaling up of public health services to bring them under control, according to an article published online on Aug. 25 in a special edition of The Lancet focusing on health in South Africa.

Salim S. Abdool Karim, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, and colleagues write that with only 0.7 percent of the world's population, the burden of HIV infection is far out of proportion, at 17 percent of the world's total. In addition, the country's tuberculosis epidemic is one of the worst in the world, while there is a rising incidence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and HIV co-infection.

Although access to condoms, expanded efforts to bring tuberculosis under control and the scaling up of free anti-retroviral therapy have all progressed substantially, more needs to be done to respond to the two epidemics in terms of evidence-based priorities, the researchers note.

"Decisive action is needed to instill and nurture the necessary political will and commitment and to adopt an evidence-based approach to formulating policies and programs," the authors write. "This is a complex task which will need a long-term perspective, with the prospect of many difficult and, perhaps, unpopular decisions. South Africa still awaits the opportunity to enjoy its newfound political freedoms without the overhanging threat of the HIV and tuberculosis epidemics."

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