World TB Day: Launch of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs in Rustenburg

World TB Day on Friday, 24 March saw the launch of South Africa’s National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs (2023-2028) at a commemoration event at the Tlhabane Stadium in Rustenburg. TB HIV Care’s CEO, Prof. Harry Hausler, joined the event which was held under the banner of ‘Yes! You and I can End TB’ – a clarion call to encourage all South Africans to contribute to the national effort against TB.

The National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs will guide the national response to these epidemics for the next five years (across civil society, government, affected communities and other sectors) – and the event saw key stakeholders and decision makers gather to mark the occasion. Prof. Hausler met with South Africa’s Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla, where he advocated for the rapid adoption or local adaptation of World Health Organization guidelines. He also met with Dr Nkateko Mkhondo, SA WHO TB Advisor. WHO has agreed to fund a satellite session at SA AIDS Conference 2023 (20-23 June) to consult with delegates on the UNHLM on TB, UHC and pandemic preparedness.

Other dignitaries at the event included the Premier of the North West province, Mr Bushy Maape; SANAC Civil Society Chairperson Ms Steve Letsike; the Chairperson of the SANAC Private Sector Forum, Ms Mpumi Zikalala; and representatives from governmental partners, research entities, civil society movements and the private sector.

The launch of the new NSP on World TB Day signals a growing recognition of the need to prioritise the response to TB in South Africa, where the disease has been the leading cause of death for more than a decade. We look forward to fulfilling the promise of the NSP and ending TB!

TB Data, Sex and Gender

Did you know that males in South Africa are 1,6 times more likely to have TB than females? That’s 1,094 per 100,000 vs 675 per 100,000 respectively, according to the 2019 TB Prevalence Survey.

One of the findings of the South African Community, Rights and Gender Assessment was that while information about biological sex is collected at facility-level, it is not generally available for analysis in relation to TB statistics. This means that districts and provinces are largely unaware of how and whether sex impacts on their TB statistics. Similarly, any interventions implemented to reach males or females are difficult to monitor.

Information around gender (for example, cisgender, transgender, gender fluid or non-binary) is not routinely collected and there is therefore little data about how gender minorities experience TB services. This even though the limited data that does exist suggests that discrimination creates significant barriers to accessing care for gender minorities.

On Wednesday, 29 March 2023 TB HIV Care hosted a workshop in Johannesburg to explore how information around sex and gender is currently collected, and how it can – or should – be collected and presented within TB statistics.

The workshop, which was attended by representatives from SANAC and civil society, resulted in a draft position statement that will be presented to the CSF TB Task Team for adoption.

The ultimate aim is that the CSF TB Task Team will meet with the National TB Task Team to present the finalised position statement calling for real-time, sex-disaggregated TB data that helps inform and create evidence based-strategies to address differential disease risk and service utilisation.

International Nurses Day: Interview with Thuli Mavuso

Today is International Nurses Day, and this year’s theme is Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and respect rights to secure global health. TB HIV Care values and respects nurses and the work that they do. For International Nurses Day, we’ve interviewed nurses within the organisation, focusing on their journey within the nursing field, lessons learnt throughout their career, and gained insight into their thoughts on the importance of investing in nursing!

1. Take as through your career from where you started to where you are now?

I did my community service at Orlando East Clinic, Psychiatric Department. This was amazing! I loved Psych. During my 2nd year, an opportunity opened up at Jeppe Clinic, where the RN who was doing Psych had left unexpectedly. So, I asked to be transferred there. That was great as well, I really enjoyed it.

I moved to Momentum, doing medical assessments for insurance. After 2 years I joined Jhpiego South Africa doing VMMCs. It started as one site, then lead to more around the Vaal region. I then trained as a trainer and travelled to other provinces, training, DoH clinicians. So, I got to run multiple sites and do trainings.

I was then hired here at TB HIV Care to run five sites in Mpumalanga and North West. So here I am.

2. If you look back on your career, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

No, I don’t feel I have any missed opportunities. Everything just aligns well.

3. What have you enjoyed most about this profession?

I have enjoyed meeting diverse people from the most brilliant, to everyday people, to those living with limitations who are determined to push beyond barriers.

I love when you see you’ve made an impact with someone you’ve met for an hour or less and they say thank you for the services you’ve given them. That always makes me happy and fulfilled.

4. What has been the most challenging part of your career to date?

It’s often difficult to manage people. Mostly because of work ethics, predisposed points of view and knowledge, the biggest factor – is emotions when dealing with challenges or issues.

5. What do you still want to achieve in your career?

I would still like to study further and travel, maybe work and travel to countries on the continent.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring nurses who want to reach a managerial position?

Don’t be complacent, there are vast careers and options in nursing. Not just bedside and chronic care.

7. Are there any qualities or skills that you learnt as a nurse that have served you well in a managerial position?

Working in a psych dept has taught me that a lot affects a person’s mental wellness and social issues are a big challenge when not properly addressed. It has made me appreciate the differences that shape and define our lives and how easily it can change by just deciding and working towards specific goals.

8. The theme for International Nurses Day (IND) 2022 is – Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health, focusing on the need to protect, support and invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems around the world. Applied in a South African context, are we investing enough in the nursing profession?

No, I feel most of all the trainings and other information given to nurses is patient/client-focused.

In South Africa especially, we are given a bad name and reputation that we’re unfriendly and apathetic. Yet there are few initiatives that empower and grow the nurse, in terms of people skills and handling stress and unfair work demands etc. Nurses still work 12-hour shifts, they are continuously working in an understaffed environment and they are still expected to give their best. A lot could be done such as looking at new ways to work which is evolving, efficient and empowering.