Cape Town’s Urban Health Programme: A resilient response to global health challenges

Staff Writer

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The Urban Health Programme and Monitoring Initiative, announced during the Partnership for Healthy Cities summit, aims to inform relevant policies, programmes and projects going forward, and so positively influence health outcomes for communities.
The integrated initiative is embedded in the City’s Integrated Development Plan, as part of its Resilient City Foundation.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the links between health, equity and poverty – and signalled a need for the City to bolster its capacity to monitor and improve urban health over time. Inspiration also came from Cape Town’s involvement in the Partnership for Healthy Cities – supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the World Health Organization and Vital Strategies.

The partnership is a global network of 73 cities, including Cape Town, working together and sharing information to help protect their collective populations of more than 300 million people from preventable deaths and injuries, using proven interventions.

The City is a co-host for the partnership’s annual summit, with more than 150 delegates gathered in Cape Town this week.

With the majority of the world’s population now living in urban settings – cities and their leaders are well positioned to transform the fight against non-communicable diseases and injuries, and reduce preventable deaths by implementing policies that are proven to prevent exposure to risk factors.

Prioritising socio-economic determinants

The City’s Urban Health Programme aims to prioritise socio-economic determinants of health specific to Cape Town, and to provide crucial insights for all departments on how they can help address the determinants of health, whether through planning and design of infrastructure, provision of services and job creation.

“This is a marathon and not a sprint, and hopefully it will be the blueprint for the metropole into the future. Cape Town has a very high burden of non-communicable diseases, and other preventable deaths.

“And, while we have a good understanding of the various factors that contribute to that burden, this programme will provide crucial information that can help determine strategies going forward. Metropolitan areas are growing, and Cape Town is no different.

“So it is imperative that our future planning takes place through a public health lens,” said mayoral committee member for community services and health, councillor Patricia Van der Ross.

Rate of TB diagnosis, treatment in Africa increasing

World Health Organization

Rate of TB diagnosis, treatment in Africa increasing

Brazzaville – About 70% of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the African region are now being diagnosed and treated, marking the highest case-detection rate in the region ever, thanks to concerted efforts by countries to address the threat of the disease.

Although the case detection rate has been on the rise since 2018, the region saw a significant increase between 2020 and 2022, rising from 60% to 70% of cases being detected, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Tuberculosis Report 2023. There has also been a notable reduction in the region in the number of people with TB who miss diagnosis. An estimated 700 000 people missed diagnosis in 2022, a 10% reduction compared with 2021. To further rally efforts to end the disease through concerted global efforts to advance detection, diagnosis and treatment, World TB Day is being marked this year under the theme “Yes! We can end TB”. 

In the African region a range of factors have helped boost TB diagnosis rates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries-maintained TB notification services, ensuring that cases were detected and treated. In Nigeria, which has a huge TB burden, case notification nearly tripled over the past five years to 285 000 cases in 2022 from 106 000 cases in 2018. Improvement in the management of HIV infection, a significant driver of TB, has also bolstered TB detection rates in the region.

“More efforts are still needed to reduce the devastating impacts of this disease on families and communities. As WHO we continue working closely with governments to address the barriers to effective response and speed up the momentum to make TB history,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The region, which accounts of 23% of TB cases and 33% of deaths globally, is making steady progress towards ending the disease.  For example, Cabo Verde, Eswatini and South Africa have achieved at least a 50% reduction in TB cases. The WHO End TB Strategy calls for countries to reduce TB deaths by 75% and cases by 50% by 2025 compared with the 2015 levels.

Across the region TB deaths fell by 38% and new cases declined by 23% in 2022 compared with 2015. High-burden TB countries have surpassed the 2025 milestone to lower TB deaths.

Despite the progress, further efforts are needed to meet the 2030 global End TB Strategy targets to cut TB deaths by 90% and cases by 80%. These include increased investments in TB control programmes. In 2022, in the African Region, the Global Plan to End TB 2018-2022 estimated that US$ 3.9 billion were required annually to achieve the targets, but only around US$ 890 million were mobilized for TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Domestic funding represented about 46% of total funding for TB (54% from international funding) in 2022. 

Limited access to health services, inadequate health infrastructure, insufficient quality of care, inadequate human resources for health and inadequate social protection are also impeding progress to ending TB. 

Globally TB continues to claim millions of lives annually. In the African region Africa, TB was the second leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, with nearly 2.5 million people falling ill and 424 000 lives lost in 2022.

Burkina Faso reports bird flu outbreak in Ouagadougou, WOAH says


Burkina Faso reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu on a farm located in its capital Ouagadougou, the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) said on Monday.

The virus, also called avian influenza, killed 441 birds out of a flock of 641, the Paris-based WOAH said in a report, citing local authorities.

African governments are collaborating with tech innovators to strengthen local health supply chains, new report reveals

Africa Business

Currency exchange, money transfer, FinTech financial technology, Global business, online banking, interbank payment concept. Man using mobile phone and laptop computer with international currencies and world map on virtual screen. Image Courtesy: Getty Images

Research noted nearly 50 partnerships between health startups and African governments, with a focus on optimizing local health supply chains and improving health outcomes across the continent.

Healthcare consulting firm Salient Advisory has launched its latest annual market intelligence report highlighting a robust pan-African ecosystem of innovators improving the safety and efficiency of health supply chains across the continent. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report titled “Innovations in Digitizing Health Supply Chains in Africa” is the first pan-African landscape of health supply chain innovators on the continent. It tracks nearly 350 technology-enabled innovators digitizing supply chain processes across 27 African countries.

As a wave of supply chain innovations emerged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term viability and impact of their business models was unclear. While the pace of new entry has slowed drastically, findings show African governments working with health supply chain innovators on nearly 50 partnerships, leveraging their tech-enabled solutions to resolve long-term challenges around the availability, accessibility, and quality of health products in public health supply chains. Nearly half of the identified partnerships focus on enabling governments to digitize ordering and inventory management to improve efficiency and minimize wastage, highlighting governments’ strong interest in adopting digital order and inventory management solutions.

While most innovators working in partnership with governments are more mature, like Zipline and mPharma, several younger companies have also established public sector partnerships early on, including Nigeria’s Figorr and Zimbabwe’s Vaxiglobal. As Africa’s tech scene grows, governments’ interest in supporting innovations that deliver social impact – while creating jobs – appears to be developing. The growing emergence of these partnerships also bodes well for the development of innovation-friendly regulations by governments across the continent.

Disparities in funding trends remain apparent across the health supply chain innovation ecosystem. While innovators have raised $2.6 billion in funding since their founding, US and Europe-based e-commerce companies and medical drone delivery operators account for 77% of all funding raised; the remaining innovators have raised $584 million since their launch. While government interest in innovations in ordering and inventory management appears strong and presents a potential path to scale, startups in this category have raised only 9% of all funding since their founding.

In terms of the number of deals, Plug N Play Ventures and Launch Africa stand out as the most active sources of equity funding in this space, while the Investing in Innovation program, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google’s Black Founders Fund have provided the highest number of grants. The 29 women-led companies active across the African continent (with a large concentration in Nigeria and Kenya) still suffer from poor access to equity financing, resulting in heavy reliance on debt and grants. Innovators headquartered outside the continent have also raised 83% of total funding ever reported, with large e-commerce giants and medical drone delivery operators capturing the bulk of external investment. Similarly, gender financing gaps are also evident as companies founded solely by women make up 8% of all startups but have received only 2% of all reported funds overall time. Lack of access to equity financing results in women-led companies relying more heavily on debt and grants.

As the ecosystem matures, innovators will provide supply chain solutions at a greater scale to governments, industry, global health agencies and more. The report advocates for the design and launch of trade financing and insurance solutions to enable mature innovators to distribute larger volumes of health products for institutional customers, an adjustment of purchasing processes by global health agencies to facilitate the participation of innovators in donor-funded supply chains, and the continued deployment of grants to foster inclusive and effective innovation ecosystems.

Speaking on the launch of the report, Remi Adeseun, Director at Salient Advisory, commented:

“The report offers the first comprehensive overview of tech-enabled health supply chain innovators emerging across Africa. We are surprised – and thrilled – to see so many government partnerships with innovators underway at both national and sub-national levels. We urge global health donors, agencies and industry partners to join with governments and investors in supporting high-potential innovators, helping foster more efficient and resilient healthcare supply chains while creating jobs.”

Hany Abdallah, Senior Program Officer, Supply Chain Systems at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also commented:

“African health innovators have demonstrated an impressive ability to utilize technology for the optimization of supply chain solutions and the improvement of access to medicines. We are delighted to witness this progress, particularly as it coincides with an increase in government partnerships, which will advance positive health outcomes. This trend highlights the trust and collaboration between governments and health tech innovators, as well as a shared commitment to driving positive change and fostering innovation within the healthcare sector across the continent.”

Jules Sergine Agbeci, Director of Operations at Office Pharmaceutique National, Gabon, said:

“Leveraging tech-enabled solutions to digitize national supply chains across the country has had a transformative effect on the efficiency and product visibility across our local supply chains. As innovators develop more technology-driven models, there will be opportunities for more government agencies across the continent to test these solutions and offer clarity on their supply chain needs to enable public health systems to leapfrog long-running challenges.”

Vaccine production in Africa key to pandemic-proofing the Continent

Africa Business

Image used for illustrative purpose. Coronavirus Covid-19 Vaccine glass bottle. Coronavirus 2019-nCoV concept. Illustrative vial of coronavirus vaccine.

The unprecedented speed of development of the Covid-19 vaccines can be attributed to multiple factors including record levels of international collaboration and swift action on the part of many governments and regulatory bodies to provide a conducive framework.

As every nation across the globe faced impending economic doom, massive cross-sector funding materialised, allowing large-scale phased trials to be performed in parallel (multiple phases run simultaneously).

The accumulation of knowledge from decades of study on related viruses, including research which started after the SARS outbreaks of 2002 -2004, and the advent of mRNA-based vaccine technology further assisted in ensuring a swift response to halting the spread of the deadly virus.

The potential for factors that enabled the Covid-19 vaccines’ swift development to expedite other vaccine efforts on the continent as well as the safety, efficacy, and uptake of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines in Africa will be key themes at this year’s Africa Health Conference, where participants like Epidemiologist and Cochrane SA Director, Professor Charles Shey Wiysonge, and Vaccine Specialist, Dr Geofrey Makenga, will address these important topics.

Among the permanent changes expected to be ushered in by the current pandemic, is the widespread uptake of the mRNA-based vaccines which have revolutionised vaccinology in recent times.

Unlike biotechnically complex protein-based vaccines, mRNA-based products can be nimbly manufactured for multiple diseases within the same facility, significantly decreasing the capex requirements for each new project. Similarly, the adenoviral vector technologies used in the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines are revolutionising the vaccines industry.

While manufacturing capacity on the African continent is lagging, experts are quick to highlight the importance of achieving self-reliance by building local vaccine-manufacture capacity.

“Aspen’s Private-Public Partnership with the SA Department of Health to manufacture Johnson & Johnson vaccines from their flagship facility in Gqeberha, for example, is a hugely promising initiative”, says Prof Wiysonge.

It is however worth noting that, under the current agreement with J&J, the Aspen facility is doing ‘fill and finish’ (packaging and preparing the vaccines for release), on medicines largely produced outside of Africa.

Dr Makenga adds that as a continent we cannot relax until the vaccines are fully produced on African soil and urges Aspen and their collaborators to speed up the process for technology transfer and commence establishment of local facilities where active ingredients can be formulated and produced.

“A successful technology transfer will also secure capabilities for production of other vaccines post pandemic,” he says.

A future pandemic-proofed vaccine paradigm in Africa revolves around more than just financing. Budgetary backing is a must, and private-public partnerships will continue to be essential, but even greater potential lies in harnessing the synergy of government health departments, big pharmaceutical R&D, and medical research institutions.

Another promising example is BioVac in Cape Town. The result of a partnership between government and a pharmaceutical company, the institute is dedicated to bolstering local vaccine manufacturing capacity.

The African Union COVID-19 vaccination strategy aims to vaccinate a minimum of 60% of Africa’s population based on a whole-of-Africa approach. This is being facilitated by initiatives like the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), a centralised purchasing agent.

Makenga says that with such structures in place, international finance facilities, in conjunction with civil society bodies like Covax (a collaboration led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization) stand to make great strides in ensuring vaccine availability.

“With assistance from non-for-profit international organizations, funding for investment could be secured for the development of other vaccines too, but only with strong political will from African countries,” he says.

Figures released by the African CDC, reveal low vaccination rates in most countries, with some countries having not yet received any vaccines at all. Furthermore, in many places the vaccines that have been acquired have been underused due to difficulties in delivery to local dispensing facilities, as well as storage challenges, and low ratios of HCWs.

According to Professor Charles Shey Wiysonge, the overall uptake of the vaccines on the continent has varied greatly from country to country and during different times throughout the pandemic.

“Seychelles for example has now achieved a vaccination coverage of close to 70%,” he remarks.

He observes that vaccine hesitancy has also been a challenge in some African countries and believes that the solution is to empower people with knowledge and education around the science of what vaccines are, and how they actually work.

Both experts agree that the technological advances in vaccine manufacture for Covid-19 bode well for adaptation for other diseases vexing the continent.

“I am optimistic that the Covid-19 pandemic will usher in a new era for Africa in which innovations in therapeutics and diagnostics is the norm,” concludes Wiysonge.

Investing in Innovation Africa announces its second call for applications to support African startups in healthcare supply chains

Africa Business

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Applications are open for early and growth-stage health tech innovators

Investing in Innovation Africa (i3), a pan-African initiative for start-ups building the future of healthcare supply chains, is calling for leading innovators to join its second cohort. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sponsored by AmerisourceBergen, Merck Sharpe & Dohme (MSD), Microsoft and Chemonics, i3 is supporting the commercialization of 60 promising early- and growth-stage companies. The programme connects African-led supply chain innovators to donors, industry, and government partners, to power start-ups’ growth and impact. Selected start-ups receive targeted introductions to customers to support commercialization and impact, a $50,000 grant, and tailored investment readiness support. i3 is particularly focused on selecting women-led companies and those operating in Francophone regions.

The first cohort, selected in September 2022, featured 31 innovators enhancing access to health products across more than 24,000 hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies in 26 African countries. To date, the i3 program has facilitated 200+ introductions between the cohort, the sponsors, and potential partners such as USAID, The Global Fund, Benshi.aI, i+Solutions, Chemonics, John Snow Inc., FHI360, Madiro Foundation, government representatives from Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health, representatives from Ekiti and Lagos state, and more. i3 has featured cohort companies on CNBC Africa, at the World Cup, the Africa Health Agenda International Conference, the forthcoming Africa CEO forum, and more. More than 17 innovators have secured partnerships and pilot projects to date.

Applications for the second cohort are open now until June 26th. Selected start-ups will be announced on September 14th. i3 continues to be inspired by the progress and potential of African innovators in healthcare supply chains, and is coordinated by Salient Advisory, Southbridge A&I and Solina Center for Research and Development (SCIDaR). Leading regional tech hubs – CcHUB (Co creation Hub), Startupbootcamp Afritech, Villgro Africa, and IMPACT Lab, spearhead cohort selection and investment readiness support.

For more information and to apply, please visit the programme’s website at Join us in our mission to create a more inclusive and innovative ecosystem for health-tech start-ups in Africa.

Yusuf Rasool, Director, Sustainable Access Solutions, Global Market Access, at MSD commented:

“Expanding access to medicines requires a new way of thinking that taps into the incredible talent we have across the continent. We can find African solutions for African challenges by bringing together government, industry, and donors to create the scaffolding for entrepreneurs to succeed. MSD is proud to partner with i3 to find, meet and partner with the next generation of African health care companies that are finding innovative ways to solve tomorrow’s healthcare challenges today.”

Kieran Daly, Director, Global Health Agencies and Funds, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also commented:

“i3 intends to jump-start a new way of doing business across aid, industry, and government partners to support local innovation – starting with health care supply chains. With our partners, we’re building a network across the African continent to help structure commercialization support for start-ups, to accelerate their growth and public health impact. We believe local, data-driven innovators closest to the delivery challenges are critical to building the resilient, agile, and responsive supply chains we need.”

WHO ‘very worried’ about spread of mpox in DRC

By Jennifer Rigby

The World Health Organisation (WHO) logo is seen near its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is “very worried” about the spread of a severe form of mpox that has killed nearly 600 people, mainly children, in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year, a senior official said.

The country has reported over 13,000 cases in 2023, more than twice as many as during the last peak in 2020, with the disease occurring in almost every province. The WHO is working with the authorities on the response and a risk assessment.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert about the dangerous clade I mpox outbreak.

“The virus variant is known to be more virulent. If it adapts better to human to human transmission, that presents a risk,” Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s mpox lead, told Reuters by phone from Kinshasa.

Mpox is a viral infection that spreads through close contact, causing flu-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions. Most cases are mild but it can kill.

Last year, a less severe form – clade II – began to spread globally, largely through sexual contact among men who have sex with men, and the WHO declared a public health emergency.

New evidence that clade I can also spread through sexual contact is concerning, Lewis said. Mpox can also spread to humans from infected animals or among family members within households, she said. Children and people with weak immune systems are more at risk, with illness leading to death in up to 10% of clade I cases.

“We have very little information of who is dying of mpox [in DRC] other than age,” said Lewis, adding more data was needed.

The WHO is also worried about an outbreak among sex workers in South Kivu, because of the vulnerability of the population as well as the risk of the infection spreading to neighbouring countries, she said.

The agency is working with the Congo government to resolve regulatory hurdles to enable the country to procure or accept donations of mpox vaccines, currently only available in the country in ongoing clinical studies. There is also a mpox antiviral treatment trial underway.

DRC has not requested any treatments, Lewis said. Getting the vaccine is more complex, she added, because only one region of the WHO has a supply agreement in place. Any donations would also need funding for deployment.

Nigeria’s FG pledges healthcare transformation, advanced diagnostics

Nigerian Tribune

Getty Images Image used for illustrative purpose.

The Federal Government has pledged a robust health sector transformation as it emphasised on diagnostic medicine and collaborative pathology advances in Nigeria.

It said these align with the key priorities and initiatives of the government’s four-point agenda promises which are significant advancements in governance, population health outcomes, the healthcare value chain, and health security.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Muhammad Ali Pate disclosed this at a three -days joint 3rd African Assembly of the International Academy of Pathology (IAP) and 14th Conference of the West African Division of IAP, (WADIAP), on Thursday in Abuja.

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The conference which was organised by the International Academy of Pathology has the theme, Evolutionary Trends in Modern Pathology Practice, while the sub-themes are: The Role of Pathology in Personalised Cancer Care.

The conference also highlighted the Value of Artificial Intelligence in Anatomical Pathology practice, Multi-specialisation in Pathology practice in low and medium-income settings, Biorisk Management (BRM) in the era of emerging and re-emerging infections and Finance management dexterity in pathology in low-income settings.

Pate who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Daju Kachollum stressed the key priorities and initiatives, of the government’s four-point agenda promising significant advancements in governance, population health outcomes, the healthcare value chain, and health security.

He said that a focal point of the government’s strategy was the emphasis on unlocking the healthcare value chain, particularly in diagnostic medicine.

“This includes a strong push for local manufacturing of health products, such as drugs, vaccines, laboratory reagents, and equipment, “she said.

While speaking further, the Minister cited Professor Martin Hale’s insights on the future of pathology labs in the next decade, urging a critical examination of these advancements for Africa.

Acknowledging challenges within the medical community, he urged professionals to avoid rivalry, stressing that efficiency and service quality are compromised when interprofessional conflicts persist.

“The Ministry of Health plans to conduct a diagnostic inquiry into interprofessional rivalry, to foster cordial working relationships and enable environments for better healthcare service delivery,” she said.

Despite economic challenges, he said that the government was resolute in its commitment to positive changes in the health sector.

“Concrete actions and strategies are being implemented to improve the welfare of health workers in Nigeria, demonstrating a proactive approach to overcoming fiscal constraints,” she said.

He said the assurance of support from ECOWAS, as articulated by the Chairman, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu highlights a broader dedication to regional health improvement.

“The commitment to bilateral and multilateral cooperation aims to enhance healthcare delivery across the region.

“The declaration of the third joint International Academy of Pathology African Assembly signifies a collaborative effort to advance pathology and healthcare.

“This assembly aligns with the broader goal of fostering cooperation and knowledge-sharing among pathologists and healthcare professionals.”

The President of the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA), Dr. Uche Ojinmah, emphasised the urgency for pathologists to take over hospital laboratories, he envisions a transformation in the practice of medicine.

Ojinmah said that the contentment with the current trend of pathologists assuming a more significant role and the subsequent digitalization.

He said the call for increased collaboration among pathologists reflects the desire for a more entrenched and broadly participative practice of pathology.

The Director General, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), Prof Usman Malami Aliyu, emphasised the Institute’s pivotal role in spearheading efforts for global cancer improvement, including leadership in prevention, diagnosis, research, and treatment.

Aliyu underscored responsibilities such as policy drafting and collaboration with the government for effective implementation.

He said that the institute recognised the significance of pathologists, the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation unit, and the commitment to qualified personnel highlight its comprehensive approach to managing cancer and contributing to policy-driven decisions in the country.

Prof. Martin John Hale, IAP President, called for initiating the third African Assembly of the IAP, emphasising its integral role in education activities and regional collaboration.

Hale, who is also the converter IAP Africa Assembly and President South Africa Division, mentioned the successful past meetings hosted by different commissions demonstrate the continuity and significance of these gatherings.

He underscored the importance of anatomical pathology in future healthcare and the need for adaptation to new paradigms.

He recognised the organizing committee for a relevant program and highlighted the potential opportunities for medical specialists while cautioning against risks posed by advanced technology if not embraced.

He urged participants to be mindful of the future and acknowledged their contribution, including government dignitaries and ministers of health, noting it added a sense of collaboration.

The President, Prof. Edwin Wiredu, WADIAP, said that the Generalized Scientific Conference and the Africana Summit emphasised the Evolutionary Trends in the body of Pathology Practice.

Wiredu said that the themes, covering personalised cancer care, artificial intelligence, water specialization, biologist management, prenatal integration, and finance management, underscore the conference’s relevance to contemporary healthcare challenges.

He mentioned that the certificate program highlights the commitment to professional development, and the reference to Cambodia and the encouragement to network add a cultural and collaborative dimension.

Earlier, Prof. Saad Ahmed, Chairman of the local organising committee of the conference, called for intentional and collaborative efforts to address the challenges faced by pathology services in Africa.

Ahmed emphasised the need for a shift from traditional approaches, highlighting specific issues in histopathologic capabilities and practices.

“The focus on reviewing past work, examining ongoing progress, and proposing lasting recommendations reflects a commitment to advancing pathology for better healthcare outcomes, he said.

Additionally, he underscored the historical context and the urgency for governments and academia to address disparities in manpower distribution and improve the quality of pathology practices.

He said that the overall goal was to stimulate introspective analysis and encourage multisectoral interventions for the advancement of pathology services in the region.

South Africa AIDS epidemic eases: survey

Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Cityscape of Johannesburg in South Africa a venue of the 2010 World Cup, February 18, 2010. Reuters Image used for illustrative purpose

South Africa has recorded its first significant fall in the number of people suffering from HIV but remains in the grip of a sexually transmitted epidemic, according to a survey released on Monday.

The country has been one of the worst hit in the global epidemic of the past four decades that has killed tens of millions of people.

The Human Sciences Research Council, a South African research agency, however said a survey found some 12.7 percent of the population of 62 million, about 7.8 million people, now have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to AIDS.

The number was down from 14 percent of the population when the last survey was carried out in 2017.

Khangelani Zuma, the council’s executive director and lead researcher of the survey of about 76,000 people, said it was not possible to give a reason for the 107,000 fall in numbers.

But he noted that the coronavirus pandemic had been a major health crisis in the five years between the surveys.

Zuma also said it was clear that “people are living longer with HIV than in previous years.”

South Africa has more individual HIV cases than any other country, accounting for about a third of the cases in Africa. More than 85,000 people annually have been dying from AIDS in recent years.

The growing use of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) medicines has radically changed prospects for AIDS/HIV sufferers.

HIV has particularly hit South Africa’s black community with the densely populated KwaZulu Natal the worst hit of the country’s nine provinces.

Zuma and other researchers expressed concern at the high numbers of women and young people still being infected with HIV.

“We know that older men are infecting younger women,” said John Blandford, country director for the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which has spent more than $100 billion fighting the epidemic over the past 20 years.

They also highlighted the falling use in countries around the world of condoms, which are considered an effective tool in preventing the spread of AIDS.

WHO sounds alarm on mpox cases in DR Congo

Agence France-Presse (AFP)

This photograph taken on December 2, 2021, shows a sign of the the World Health Organization (WHO) and their headquarters in Geneva. – The WHO has issued stern warnings on the dangers of vaccination apathy and the European Union put mandatory jabs on the table as the United States registered its first case of the fast-spreading Omicron strain of the coronavirus. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The World Health Organization on Saturday reported 12,569 mpox cases and 581 related deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year to November 12, the highest annual figure ever recorded.

The infectious disease, formerly known as monkeypox, was first identified in humans in 1970 in the DRC.

It has been endemic for years in several West and Central African countries, where outbreaks often began when the virus was transmitted to humans from infected animals.

All but four of the DRC’s 26 provinces reported infections, “with new cases in geographic areas that had previously not reported mpox, including Kinshasa, Lualaba, and South Kivu”, the WHO said.

The WHO is concerned about the transmissibility of a variant and said it was working with the Congolese health ministry to assess the situation.

A spike in infections last year in Europe and the United States, outside the disease’s endemic areas, prompted the WHO to declare a public health emergency of international concern, the highest alarm it can sound, in July 2022.

It ended the alert in May this year but advised populations to remain vigilant.

The global outbreak has mainly affected men who have sex with men and who have recently had sex with one or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

Contaminated objects can also spread the disease.

The first symptoms are fever, headaches, muscle pain and back pain during the course of five days.

Rashes subsequently appear on the face, palms of hands and soles of the feet, followed by painful lesions, spots and finally scabs.

The disease usually heals by itself after two to four weeks. It is most serious for children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

A total of 91,788 cases and 167 deaths have been reported in 116 countries and territories from January 2022 to October 31 this year, the WHO says.