Prisons latest target as South Africa continues zero TB drive

24 March 2013 - Cape Town - The Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, today handed over six Xpert diagnostic machines to the country’s prison service, providing access to rapid tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis for more than 30% of the country’s prison population.

South Africa’s National Strategic Plan on TB and HIV identifies prison inmates, along with mine workers, healthcare workers and other groups, as being particularly vulnerable to becoming ill TB.

The Xpert machine delivers a TB test result in less than two hours. To date, South Africa has purchased more of these tests than any other country.

Speaking at the event, Deputy President Motlanthe confirmed the government’s commitment to the 20-year vision outlined in the National Strategic Plan. The vision is for zero new HIV and TB infections; zero new infections due to vertical transmission; zero preventable deaths associated with HIV and TB; and zero discrimination associated with HIV and TB.

"The South African Deputy President, Minister of Health and government are taking a bold and unique step taking in ensuring rapid access to TB diagnosis for inmates in the national prison system," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership at the event. "In many other places in the world there is hesitation in ensuring access to Xpert even for general populations. This move to place Xpert machines in prisons will ensure access to a vulnerable group and represents an outstanding example of leadership and vision."

The day started off with soccer tournament organized by Kick TB, a campaign which uses sport to educate children across South Africa about TB and HIV.

Other keynote speakers at the event included Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Roll Back Malaria and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and UN Envoy for Africa Yvonne Chaka Chaka and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Goodwill Ambassador Gerry Elsdon.