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New Hub of Hope for Flagstaff, Eastern Cape

The launch of our new newest Hub of Hope took place on Monday, 24 June 2024 at Mhlanga High School, located in Flagstaff under Ward 26 in OR Tambo. This hub, situated within the school, benefits both in-school and out-of-school youth. The event was graced by the presence of the local ward committee, school governing board members, the principal, students, and the wider community.

Mhlanga, located just 15 km outside Flagstaff town, faces severe challenges, including high rates of rape, gender-based violence (GBV), crime, unemployment, and drug abuse. It is known as the “Capital Town of Rape” alongside Lusikisiki, currently ranked second in South Africa for rape statistics, following Inanda in eThekwini.

The Hub of Hope aims to empower the youth through a tech-savvy initiative supported by DREAMS, which has provided the community with a WiFi router, printer, notice boards, tables, chairs, and a dedicated Intensive Economic Strengthening (IES) ambassador. The hub will assist the community and school with job applications, NSFAS applications, market assessments, research, assignments, CV updates, university and TVET applications, bursary applications, homework clubs, Microsoft online training, entrepreneurial support, business coaching, and mentoring.

This initiative is part of DREAMS’ ongoing IES efforts to upskill and develop the youth. It promises to significantly improve the community’s access to information and technology, ultimately enhancing their lives.

8th South African TB Conference

The 8th South African TB Conference takes place in Durban from 4 – 7 June 2024 under the theme ‘Accelerating progress to end TB’.

TB HIV Care joins government, funders, partners and other stakeholders at the conference to put the spotlight on TB – and focus on strategies that bring South Africa closer to ending TB as a public health threat by 2030. These include:

  • targeted universal testing for TB (TUTT);
  • tuberculosis preventive therapy (TPT);
  • integrated TB and HIV services; and
  • new, community-led interventions like OneImpact South Africa.

As Prof. Harry Hausler, CEO of TB HIV Care, explains, TUTT focuses on testing those most vulnerable to TB, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.

“Often people are asymptomatic, and a delayed diagnosis allows TB to spread more easily, results in more complications and can even result in more deaths,” says Prof. Hausler. “With TUTT, we can ensure high-risk groups receive immediate sputum GeneXpert/NAAT testing, allowing them to start treatment early and be cured!” These groups include people living with HIV, newly diagnosed HIV-positive individuals, HIV-positive women who are pregnant, people who have had TB in the last two years, and close contacts of people with TB.

For Prof. Hausler, TUTT works hand in hand with TB preventive therapy (TPT) to address the high TB burden in South Africa.

“TPT is incredibly important in the fight against TB. It should be offered to anyone who has been significantly exposed to TB or is at risk of developing active TB disease. This includes all close TB contacts; adults, adolescents and children living with HIV; and people living with silicosis,” explains Prof. Hausler. “Importantly, South Africa has new guidelines and shorter regimens for TPT, making it much easier for clients.”

TB HIV Care Programme Director (Care & Treatment) Sandile Prusente believes that in the context of limited resources and competing program demands, integrating HIV and TB services is critical for the sustainability of programs.

“South Africa has a strong HIV programme. We have every opportunity to incorporate TUTT and TPT into HIV services, this means offering TB testing to people living with HIV at their annual viral loads; testing newly diagnosed HIV-positive clients (including those returning to care); and testing HIV-positive mothers-to-be at their first antenatal visit,” says Prusente.

New community-led interventions and innovations can also inform and impact South Africa’s TB response says Alison Best, TB HIV Care’s Community, Rights and Gender Specialist.

“One example is OneImpact South Africa, a platform whereby people affected by TB can engage with TB services, report any challenges or barriers, flag stigma or discrimination, get trusted information on TB, and chat online with other people with TB and survivors to get support. At the conference we will be presenting some of the work done in the Free State where some of the barriers to ex-miners accessing compensation for silicosis and/or TB have been recorded. These include a lack of knowledge of how to apply for compensation and a lack of resources to comply with the application process.”

The TB HIV Care team will be at stand 48 at the conference. All media enquiries to linsey.schluter@tbhivcare.org

 

International Harm Reduction Day

International Harm Reduction Day is marked on the 7th of May each year to advance – and advocate for – a harm reduction approach to drug use. For TB HIV Care CEO, Prof. Harry Hausler, harm reduction recognises that addiction often comes from a place of trauma and suffering. In response, arm reduction offers an alternative, non-punitive, non-judgemental, health and human rights approach to addiction.

In eThekwini, our team marked International Harm Reduction Day with a march. Various stakeholders, including Metro Police, SAPS, Aurum, MAAT Institute, Bellhaven Centre, and TB HIV Care PWID and sex worker staff, participated in the event. The march aimed to enhance awareness amongst the community and government about harm reduction, advocate for the expansion of public health services for individuals who use drugs, and address the stigma and discrimination they confront daily.

After the march, the programme featured presentations from distinguished advocates and medical professionals. A THC OST Doctor elaborated on the methadone programme, whilst a representative from Aurum discussed their tuberculosis services and also conducted TB chest X-rays. Andile Ngcungama, a THC Advocacy Officer, delivered a talk on human rights. The day concluded with powerful testimonies from clients whose lives have been transformed by the methadone programme.

In Nelson Mandela Bay our PWID team observed International Harm Reduction Day with a special event. The formal session refreshed attendees on harm reduction principles and included a ceremony to remember those who have passed away due to drug-related illnesses.

The celebration also included a vibrant session where attendees donned t-shirts in various colours, each representing different harm reduction themes. These colours were symbolic and facilitated engaging group competitions, adding an enjoyable and interactive element to the day’s proceedings.

These events reflect the community’s ongoing commitment to addressing and supporting the needs of people who use drugs, ensuring they receive respect, support, and access to necessary health services.