GF Jooste Hospital Is Revolutionising Tuberculosis Care and Proving It Is Curable

Article excerpt

BYLINE: Anso Thom Health-e News Service

A TB UNIT at one of South Africa's busiest hospitals is at the forefront of showing why this disease, which is killing thousands of South Africans, is curable.

The man looks much older than 38. His tall, thin body hardly makes an impression under the light-blue hospital issue bedspread. He is flanked by a short young woman, his sister, and a burly woman, his neighbour.

He looks terrified and confused, the whites of his eyes showing as he pulls the bedding up to his chin. Next to his sister, Thandi Mngxuma, dressed in a T-shirt with red Aids ribbons, holds up a chart which has various pills glued to a piece of cardboard.

Mngxuma patiently asks the 38-year-old several questions, and when he fails to answer, looking in desperation at his young sister, she waits for the woman to again explain to him what they are trying to establish. At one point he holds three bony fingers in the air.

"He's had TB three times, but the clinic never told him what TB was," Mngxuma translates, making notes in a huge white file.

Mngxuma is a counsellor at a TB Unit that is revolutionising TB care at Cape Town's busiest hospital, GF Jooste, in Manenberg. For many years, the secondary hospital has served 1.5 million people in Mitchells Plain, Klipfontein and Khayelitsha.

In the hospital's medical wards emaciated figures, some moaning, others simply staring into space, are a reminder of the very real and devastating impact the HIV epidemic is having on communities. However, a project started by Farzaneh Behroozi, a public health researcher, is showing promise as an intervention that could dramatically cut the deaths linked to TB.

Tomorrow is World TB Day.

Sixteen TB clinics and 10 anti-retroviral clinics refer patients to GF Jooste. Khayelitsha is the largest of the referral areas with a TB incidence (new cases) of 1 612 per 100 000 people a year and an antenatal HIV sero-prevalence of 33 percent (number of pregnant women found to be HIV-positive at antenatal clinics surveyed).

Research conducted in the hospital's medical wards, which admit up to 35 patients daily, revealed that 83 percent of TB patients were co-infected with HIV. …