Oct 2014

Putting SA on the road to health

Written by Noluthando Mkhize and SAnews
In the five months since the new administration came into office, Government has launched the pregnancy registry, increased the number of HIV positive people receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and sent more students to study medicine in Cuba.
Increasing life expectancy

The National Development Plan (NDP) target states that by 2030 life expectancy would have reached 70, along with a generation of under-20-year olds who would be an HIV free generation.

It further states that the infant mortality rate would decline from 43 to 20 per 1 000 births. To achieve the targets stated in the NDP, Minister Motsoaledi announced during his Budget Vote that HIV positive people with a CD4 count of 500 and less would now be able to receive ARVs against the current CD4 count of less than 350.

This will be from January 2015. HIV positive pregnant women will also be put on lifelong treatment regardless of their CD4 count.

The Minister said all HIV positive pregnant women would be moved to the World Health Organisation’s option B+ as opposed to the current option B, that is operational in the country.

“Option B+ simply means every pregnant HIV positive woman goes on a lifelong treatment regardless of their CD4 status, whereas option B is that they stay on treatment only while breastfeeding, and stop after termination of breastfeeding if their CD4 count is more than 350. Option B+ is lifelong treatment regardless of CD4 status,” he explained.

Launch of MomConnect

To meet the goals of the NDP related to the infant mortality rate, Minister Motsoaledi launched MomConnect, which is an electronic SMS system that reminds pregnant women to attend their antenatal and postnatal classes.

Minister Motsoaledi said the messages would advise them on what to do at any stage of their pregnancy and also encourage women to start antenatal care at an early stage.

“We will say mom, since you registered with us you are now 13-weeks pregnant. This is what you must do, this is where you must go, and this is what you must avoid. Even after the birth of the baby, we will continue to send the messages for a period of one year. The messages will include advice on the baby,” explained Minister Motsoaledi.

How to register:

  1. Ask someone at a public healthcare facility to confirm that you are pregnant.
  2. Dial *134*550# from your cellphone to register and answer a few simple questions about your pregnancy.
  3. Pregnancy is registered in the national database.
Increasing the number of doctors in the country

The Gauteng Department of Health awarded 145 bursaries to young people to study medicine in Cuba.

The course comprises one year of Spanish and foundation courses; five years of medical studies and then two years of medical study at a South African University to complete a degree in medicine.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health also sent 30 young people to the Manipal University in Jaipur, India, to study towards Bachelor of Pharmacy degrees and Bachelor of Science degrees in Medical Imaging Technology.

North West Health MEC Dr Magome Masike also bade farewell to 126 young people awarded bursaries to study medicine in Cuba.

He said the programme was in line with government’s rural development plan, which seeks to improve the general state of service delivery.

The MEC added that his department was contributing to this mandate by improving health services in rural areas.

“As government, we are hoping that the South Africa-Cuba Medical Programme will eventually assist us to improve our patientdoctor ratio. We need to see more doctors and specialists visiting our clinics and community health centres, where our people live.”

Bursary recipient Mmoloki Matlapeng, 19, from Bojanala, thanked the department for granting him and others the opportunity of a lifetime.

Matlapeng said when he was applying for a bursary, he was not only thinking about becoming a doctor. He said he was focused on how he was going to contribute and help the community that raised him.

“We are definitely not the first group to go to Cuba and we are not the last to go. We want to assure our parents and communities that we will do our best and will make them proud,” said Matlapeng.

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