Interview: “Someone had to do it”, says SA TB activist on Time 100 list

At the age of 19 Phumeza Tisile contracted multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. For four years she battled the disease, losing her hearing in the process. At one stage, a doctor told her to visit a priest and prepare her soul for death. Recently, Tisile (now 33) made it on to TIME magazine’s 2023 TIME100 Next list, as one of 100 emerging leaders round the world who are “shaping the future and defining the next generation of leadership”. Sue Segar chatted to Tisile about her remarkable journey.

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Interview: “The situation is not going away,” says inspiring TB doctor

Dr Juli Switala (42) has treated children in Nigeria, helped fatally ill patients during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, and delivered babies at a hospital in Afghanistan against a backdrop of upheaval and violence. But nowhere cuts close to her heart quite like Brooklyn Chest – the tuberculosis (TB) hospital on Cape Town’s north-western fringes. Biénne Huisman chatted with Switala about her work in hospitals around the world, the challenges of treating kids with TB, and going for a run to get away from it all.

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OPINION: Struggle for migrant health rights still far from over after landmark judgment 

In a landmark court decision, the Gauteng High Court recently confirmed the rights of all pregnant and lactating women and children under age six to access services for free at all levels of care. The court order sets a good precedent for migrant health rights going forward, writes Mbali Baduza and Kholofelo Mphahlele as they explain the build-up to the court proceedings and why this is significant for re-affirming the right to access to healthcare for all in terms of section27 of the Constitution.

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Supply issues delaying wider rollout of shorter TB preventive therapy

South Africa’s recently published guidelines for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) infection have been welcomed by several experts. Among others, the guidelines endorse the use of a three-month course of TB preventive therapy as opposed to the old six-month course. But, while the intention is to roll out the three-month course quite widely, supply constraints may delay things. Tiyese Jeranji reports.

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“It took me three seconds to decide” – Fareed Abdullah reflects on his career in public health

Over the last three decades, Dr Fareed Abdullah has been at the coalface of South Africa’s response to HIV, tuberculosis, and more recently, COVID-19. Biénne Huisman chatted with Abdullah about providing antiretrovirals in the time of AIDS denialism, National Health Insurance, working as a medical doctor, and the toll HIV has sadly taken on his own family.

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Are youth-only clinics the answer to better healthcare for young people?

Special youth clinics appear to be an effective means of providing healthcare services to young people who otherwise might not engage with healthcare services. But is building more youth clinics realistic given our resource constraints, or is it better to focus on making ‘normal’ clinics more youth-friendly – or should we be looking beyond clinic-based healthcare services altogether? Tiyese Jeranji investigates.

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PROFILE: I view the doctor-patient relationship as sacred, says leading TB doctor

Dr Jennifer Furin has fought drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) since 1995, when she worked as a student in a poverty-stricken suburb in Lima, Peru. Since then she has roamed the world, treating TB and HIV patients in under-resourced countries, including Haiti, Russia, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, eSwatini, Lesotho, and South Africa. Biénne Huisman chatted to Furin about her life working in TB and what it means to see things from the perspective of people living with TB.

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In-depth: New licenses could spark manufacture of COVID-19 pills in Africa

Pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer recently announced early results from clinical trials showing that two new antiviral medicines are highly effective in reducing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisation. The Medicines Patent Pool then announced licensing deals with both companies that will allow for generic versions of the two drugs to be produced. Catherine Tomlinson unpacks the licenses and asks whether generic versions of these pills might now be made in Africa.

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Family focus shows promise for TB prevention

Tuberculosis (TB) preventive therapy is highly effective in preventing TB disease and death, yet only a few people have access to it. Tiyese Jeranji reports on how Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Khayelitsha is helping TB patients, as well as their contacts, access preventive therapy in the comfort of their homes as part of a new family-centred TB care initiative.

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CSOs want disability grants reinstated

The South African Social Security Agency’s decision to suspend temporary disability grants in December left over 210 000 beneficiaries without an income – including some DR TB patients who rely on this grant to stay on treatment. Elri Voigt investigates.

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