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South Africa To Expand Rollout Of New TB Testing Machine, But Concerns Remain About Capacity Issues

“South Africa will expand its rollout of GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) testing machines, which can diagnose TB and drug-resistant TB within 90 minutes, but concerns remain about the capacity to back up this commitment with supplies and treatment,” IRIN reports. “At the opening of the TB Vaccines Third Global Forum in Cape Town on 25 March, Precious Matsoso, director general of the South African Department of Health, announced that an additional 135 machines will be imported by the end of 2013,” the news service notes, adding, “The GeneXpert was released in 2010 and South Africa already has 150.” The news service notes, “Matsoso also announced that the health department, the National Department of Science and Technology, and the U.S.-based non-profit TB vaccine developer, Aeras, would continue to fund the recently created South Africa Consortium on TB Vaccine.”

However, “South African AIDS lobby the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have questioned the government’s ability to deliver on these promises as stockouts and slow decentralization persist,” IRIN writes, adding, “In a joint letter delivered to South African Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi on 22 March, the organizations stressed that the success of the GeneXpert rollout hinged on a steady supply of testing cartridges for the machines, the decentralization of drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) care and treatment, and improved supply-chain management to avoid recurring drug stockouts.” The news service notes, “The country is the largest buyer of GeneXpert technology in the world, but the machines have not yet become point-of-care tests and are often deployed at district rather than clinic level” (3/26).