South African health officials are looking at ways to change their HIV/AIDS policies and programs in the wake of the emergency of XDR-TB. Reports say the extremely drug resistant tuberculosis has killed more than 180 people in South Africa since September. And those infected with the AIDS virus, HIV, are more vulnerable to the disease. While AIDS can take years to kill, XDR-TB is much, much quicker.
VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about aids and XDR-TB.
“The AIDS strategy is currently under review anyway. And the new master plan, comprehensive plan, was supposed to be announced next month. Then one of the issues they have had to consider now is how to incorporate the cases and treatment for people who have TB that is resistant to drugs,” she says.
Health officials say XDR-TB can result when TB patients failed to take the full regimen of treatment and the TB strain then builds up a resistance to the medication. Robertson says, “There’s a system of drug taking that some people apply called directly observed drug administration. That applies well when you have patients who are undergoing a short course of treatment. But…TB treatment is at least six months long. And with the drug resistant TB it requires that the patient take a range of drugs rather than just one or perhaps two. So, observation is extremely important and it’s extremely important for the people to take their drugs.”
She says that officials are trying to decide what to do if patients refuse to take their medication, leave a health facility and spread the disease in the community. The issue raises the question of quarantine. And that raises legal and ethical issues.