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15 Nov 2021

Milestone as Connect TB Study, Private and public health partnership for TB detection and care first client completes treatment

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Milestone as Connect TB Study, Private and public health partnership for TB detection and care first client completes treatment

eThekwini, Monday 15 November 2021 – The first client in the novel Connect TB study successfully and timeously completed treatment for tuberculosis (TB) at the end of October 2021. A collaboration between the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Connect TB brings together the private and public healthcare sectors in providing TB care.

According to the HSRC’s Dr Sizulu Moyo, the milestone highlights the success and value of private and public health partnerships in detecting and treating people with TB. 

The TB REACH-funded study enables clients to receive their results via text message and provides treatment adherence support to people diagnosed with TB over the telephone. Adherence support provides a safe support structure for people taking TB medication, helping clients to overcome barriers to treatment completion like stigma, inadequate access to services, and food insecurity. 

The project started in May 2021 and will end in March 2022. It provides a one-stop shop for TB testing in the private sector by providing access to free TB testing through the The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) for GP practices via the Vula App. 

Doctors request testing via the Vula app and project drivers collect the samples from the doctors’ rooms and courier them to the NHLS laboratory at iNkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital for testing. Testing is undertaken according to the public sector testing guidelines.

“The first client to be enrolled in the study was diagnosed with TB in early May 2021. She started treatment in the public system two days later and has now completed treatment on time and with pride at the end of October,” said Dr Moyo. 

Ten more clients will soon be following suit, an exciting milestone for the study. The clients enrolled to date range from 17 to 65 years of age and live in eThekwini. They include school-going children, students at tertiary institutions, the employed and unemployed and pensioners. 

Clients diagnosed through the study are often linked to care and start treatment within 2 days of diagnosis. Most importantly, Adherence Facilitators provide counselling support to help clients understand their diagnosis, to extend screening and testing to their household members, and to cheer them on through a difficult treatment journey. 

Currently, more than 50 people have been diagnosed with TB through the GPs involved in the study and connected to TB treatment. Early experiences of clients suggest that with the support, clarity, guidance, and reassurance provided by an Adherence Facilitator over the phone, the TB treatment journey can be a positive experience.

With recent statistics showing an increase in TB deaths in 2020, the TB prevalence survey showing that people with symptoms of TB delay seeking care, and evidence that about 30% of people with symptoms of TB first present to the private health sector, the project is expected to play a major role in improving the detection and care of TB patients.

The Connect TB study is a partnership between the HSRC, UKZN, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, and Vula Mobile under the leadership of Dr Jody Boffa and Dr Tsholofelo Mhlaba from UKZN and Dr Sizulu Moyo from HSRC. 

The study is being undertaken throughout eThekwini District and is funded by the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH programme and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

For more information on the study contact:

Dr Sizulu Moyo 066 075 9219

Dr Jody Boffa  079 475 7791

Join the conversation at:

  https://twitter.com/connect_tb 

   Connect TB Project

For media interviews, please contact Adziliwi Nematandani, 012 316 9729, email: anematandani@hsrc.ac.za

JOINTLY ISSUED BY THE HUMAN AND SOCIAL CAPABILITIES DIVISION, HUMAN SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL AND THE CENTRE FOR RURAL HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU NATAL

 

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