Provinces include HIV, TB screening at COVID-19 sites

Deputy President David Mabuza says provincial departments of health have started experimenting with combining Tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19 screening in some locations, while also offering HIV self-screening at COVID-19 sites.

Responding to oral questions to the National Council of Provinces via a virtual link-up, the Deputy President said while a lot reprioritization was done towards the fight against COVID-19, the government has not diverted resources away from HIV and TB.

“…the provincial departments of health have started experimenting with combining TB and COVID-19 screening at some of their locations in the districts, in order to ensure continuity of services.

“By offering HIV self-screening at COVID-19 screening sites, the Department of Health is able to reach people who would otherwise be missed by their standard HIV programmes.

“Community health workers across the country, are screening for the Coronavirus whilst conducting their normal door-to-door HIV and TB monitoring work, such as ensuring that patients are taking their antiretroviral medicines,” he said on Thursday.

Since the first case of Coronavirus was confirmed in South Africa on 5 March 2020 – and with the pandemic spreading to all nine provinces due to community transmission – the government immediately took measures to ensure detection, referral, and management of cases, the Deputy President said.

He said this called for a better coordinated and strengthened response to the pandemic, meaning some resources had to be reprioritized to ensure availability of diagnostics, personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, and other emergency response supplies, as well as addressing critical gaps in health and community systems.

“However, this reprioritization of resources to respond to COVID-19 did not mean diverting resources away from HIV and TB,” he said on Thursday.

The Deputy President said government and its partner donors, including the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United Nations Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, are leveraging on existing resources in order to assist in the COVID-19 response.

“This is done while ensuring that HIV and TB services remain accessible to those who need them. HIV and TB programmes have integrated HIV testing and TB screening into the COVID-19 response.

“The Department of Health sets targets for HIV testing and treatment for those diagnosed and eligible for treatment initiation.

“The funds for [the] required commodities and medicine are based on annual targets.

These funds are ring-fenced through the Schedule 5 Conditional Grant and cannot be shifted without prior approval of the Accounting Officer of the National Department of Health.

“Therefore, funds for HIV test kits and [antiretrovirals] ARVs have not been reduced or shifted in the current 2020/2021 financial year.” –

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