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SAfrica battles to curb TB spread

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Tuberculosis control in South Africa is among the worst in the world with infections tripling in the last decade, the country’s deputy health minister said Monday.

“TB prevalence has increased almost threefold in the last 10 years. South Africa is amongst the 10 worst performing countries on TB control,” the SAPA news agency quoted deputy minister Molefi Sefularo as saying.

“This has left us anxious and concerned.”

South Africa’s performance in fighting TB was worse than that of its neighbour Mozambique, despite having far better resources, Sefularo told a meeting of AIDS and TB specialists in Cape Town.

The World Health Organisation estimates almost one percent or 461,000 South Africans develop TB annually, with government figures showing that the disease was the country’s leading natural cause of death in 2006.

Sefularo said South Africa’s current cure rate of about 65 percent was significantly better than the 51 percent it had in 2004, but was far below the WHO’s recommended cure rate of 85 percent.

“We are in danger of not meeting our Millennium Development Goals as a result of these poor outcomes,” he said.

The presence of multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) and extensively drug resistant (XDR-TB) strains combined with HIV posed major challenges, he said.

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