Have your say…

The other day a friend shared this analogy. He said: “The ANC is like a delirium eagle that is violently flapping its wings destroying its own nest, it must be helped before it is too late.”

He also said political in-fighting, slate politics, and the succession debate within the ruling party could force the 104-year-old liberation movement to implode.

How true are his observations? (Don’t look at me).

Over the past months, it seems no or little attention is drawn towards the party’s crucial policy discussion documents that are currently out for review and comment.

Recently Naledi Pandor, the chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC)’s NEC Subcommittee on Education and Health launched the party’s policy discussion documents ahead of its 5th National Policy Conference to be held from the 30th of June to the 5th of July 2017.

In a media statement Pandor said the policy discussion document provides the framework for in-depth discussions and assessment of the work done over the last five years by the Subcommittee and each of its sectors.

She says the principal objective of the discussion documents is also to enable all its members to review the implementation of policies adopted at the 53rd National Conference and to propose areas for policy review or new policies towards the 54th National Conference, to be held in December 2017.

“Education and health are priorities for the ANC and the country; and that Science, Technology, and Innovation is a critical catalyst for social and economic development the world over,” says Pandor.

She says the discussion document has four critical elements:

  • Firstly, it is a tool aimed at stimulating debates in the ANC, in communities and amongst stakeholders on issues that are relevant to the sector including proposals on how to serve South Africa best through programmes mentioned herein or proposed. It has three critical elements
  • Secondly, it ensures that there is continuity of political thought, analysis, plans and programmes between discussions of the 4th National Policy Conference held in 2012, the 53rd National Conference and those taking place now towards the 5th National Policy Conference and the 54th National Conference. It contains a review of decisions that have been taken since the 53rdNational Conference, including relevant decisions of all NEC meetings, Alliance Summits, resolutions of the ANC Leagues and recommendations of the 2015 NGC.
  • Thirdly, it is an assessment of the implementation of ANC resolutions and decisions, including integration of these into the implementation of the NDP Vision 2030 as our national plan for eradicating poverty, unemployment, and inequality. It has identified policy gaps and proposals to remedy these in each of the sectors.
  • Fourthly, the report of each sector is structured to communicate action in response to ANC resolutions and Manifesto directives, government policy context; key decisions made between conferences; reports on the implementation of specific projects and programmes in line with resolutions of the ANC from December 2012 to date; reports on the impact on society of implementation of ANC policies and programmes; and policy gaps.


Pandor the health sector has reactivated programmes to ensure that the District Health System (DHS) is functional in all provinces, as a practical step of strengthening Primary Health Care (PHC);

On the much talked about National Health Insurance (NHI), Pandor says lawmakers have gazetted the White Paper on the NHI for public comment in December 2015.

“NHI Pilot sites have been activated to prepare the health system for implementation of NHI; and work on the establishment of the NHI Fund has been progressing steadily and the White Paper on NHI has been finalised waiting for endorsement by Cabinet.”

She says the health sector has performed “extremely well” in its programmes against HIV and AIDS resulting in fewer deaths and increased life expectancy, reduced overall mortality in the country; dramatic reduction of maternal mortality; considerable drop in mother-to-child transmission; reduction in child and infant mortality and a decrease in TB mortality due to successful ARV treatment.

“The sector has instituted game-changing interventions such as GeneXpert testing and has evidence of TB disease burden declining. It is, however, concerned about TB remaining the primary underlying cause of death in South Africa”.

Pandor‘s subcommittee has recommended:

That the health sector continuously strengthens measures to improve the quality of care delivered by health practitioners in the public and private sector

draft and promote policies to curb medical malpractice, high costs of medical insurance and litigation against medical malpractice; adopt a policy for the country to eliminate on or before 2027 all vaccine-preventable diseases which have existing vaccines with proven efficacy; and ensure that the revitalisation of Military Health infrastructure, including acquisition of heath technology, adds to economic growth through jobs created by this activity.

Those who would like to comment on the ANC’s policy discussion document, Pandor says they can do so that via its social media platforms as well through email: “Attention: Education, Health, Science, Technology and Innovation” at communications@anc.org.za


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Kenya rolls out instant HIV self-test kit

Kenya is the first country in the world to introduce an instant HIV self-test kit to the public. The Kenyan Ministry of Health says 1.5 million people are living with HIV, and more than 500 thousand are unaware that they have the virus.  In 2015, there were an estimated 78 000 new HIV infections in Kenya. And testing rates are low, especially among men, meaning they are not able to benefit from treatment.

Researchers argue that reaching universal HIV-status awareness is crucial to ensure all HIV-infected patients have full access to lifesaving drugs. In response to the challenge, the Kenyan government has launched the Be Self Sure campaign to encourage people to get tested for HIV. As part of the campaign, the government is making HIV self-test kits available through public and private health facilities and selected pharmacies for around US$ 8 each, a low price which was negotiated in a partnership between the government of Kenya and the private sector.

“Opportunities for HIV testing could be enhanced by offering self-testing in populations that fear stigma and discrimination when accessing conventional HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) in health care facilities.”

Officials say it is important to know your status “so that you make the correct life choices.”

The Head of National Aids Control Council (NACC) in Kenya, Martin Sirengo told Nasibo Kabale of the Standard newspaper that the kits, which will involve a blood test or swabbing the mouth for oral fluid samples, makes the results available immediately (for the blood test) or after 20 minutes. “The tests are highly sensitive and have an 80 percent accuracy rate; that is why if you test positive, you will need a follow-up test,” said Dr Sirengo.

The United States Food and Drug Administration approved over the counter sale and use of the OraQuick – In-Home HIV Test – in the United States in 2012.

Oral kit 

OraQuick, which will require the user to do 360 degrees swab of the upper and lower mouth gums using a collection kit. The swabbed saliva sample is placed in a solution which comes with the kit and gives the results in 20 minutes.

Blood sample

The second one, a blood sample kit known as Insti, would involve pricking the finger for blood which is put on the kit. The results are ready in a minute. Those who test positive for HIV in either test can visit a health facility for a re-test to confirm the results.

The Kenyan government hopes to make the test kits available for free in public health facilities by the end of June 2017.

Meanwhile in a 2016 study of self-tests in Khayelitsha, South Africa, by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), healthcare workers said the kits should be provided only to individuals who demonstrate they fully understood the procedures involved and who are ready to attend post-test counselling. While self-testing is not prohibited by South African regulations, the Department of Health and the South African Medical Association have warned against its use.

As of May 2015, in its National HIV Counselling and Testing Guidelines, the Department of Health states that ‘HIV self-testing is currently nor recommended and supported in South Africa.

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Smoking leads to early death and disability worldwide

One in four men who smoke cigarettes started in their teens. Worldwide 933 million people are smokers and 80% of these chain-smokers live in low-income and middle-income countries. According to research smoking is claiming more than five million lives every year.  So, who is responsible for this global health disaster?

So, who is responsible for this global health disaster? Have parents neglected their responsibilities to educated their children about the dangers of smoking? Or have the tobacco companies captured the market that few can resist the media or peer pressure?


To help you see the bigger picture (I’m sure you know about it), British American Tobacco (BAT), is one of five transnational companies that is showing strong earnings and growing market share. BAT is market leadership in more than 55 countries and manufacturing facilities in 42 of them. In 2016, BAT sold 665 billion cigarettes, making £5·2 billion in profit; and recorded rising profits across most of the world.


Let juxtapose that with the World Health Organization (WHO) study that estimates there are over 1 billion smokers worldwide.

Tobacco, including cigarette smoking, kills 5.4 million people a year and is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of deaths in the world. Despite reductions in the prevalence of smoking in developed countries, smoking is increasing globally. Recent evidence also indicates that smoking contributes to more illness than was evident previously.

Smoking also incurs significant financial costs to society. An estimated US $500 billion are lost each year due to healthcare expenditures, lost productivity, and other financial costs due to smoking.

Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 is “Tobacco – a threat to development.”

Considering the significant public health and financial impact incurred by smoking, preventing smoking initiation and promoting cessation are global public health goals. Empirical evidence indicates strong, graphic warnings have an impact in reducing tobacco use.

A new review from the independent health research organisation Cochrane on the impact of plain packaging around the world has found that it does affect the behaviour of smokers. South Africa became one of the first countries in the world to ban smoking in public places in 2000 when it introduced its Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act.

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Lifesaving drug that can reduce maternal death by a third

Postpartum haemorrhage is the biggest cause of death during pregnancy and early motherhood.
Every year more than 100 thousand, women die from massive bleeding hours after giving birth.
Most of these preventable deaths occur soon after she had given birth and almost all (99%) occur in low-income and middle-income countries.
These deaths have a negative impact on the family structure, as the newly born child must survive without a mother and a husband without a wife or partner.
However, help is coming.
Researchers have found that tranexamic acid can cut deaths by a third in those given the drug within three hours of birth.
Prof Ian Roberts, one of the researchers, told the BBC’s James Gallagher: “We’ve got an important result.
“We found an inexpensive drug, given in a single shot, that reduces the risk of bleeding to death, and it should play a role in reducing maternal mortality around the world.”
The study was coordinated by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in a collaboration of 193 hospitals mostly in Africa and Asia.
In 2012, World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommended that tranexamic acid should be used for the treatment of post-partum haemorrhage when uterotonics fail to control the bleeding or when the bleeding is thought to be due to trauma.
However new evidence suggests that tranexamic acid was a safe option for the treatment of trauma-related bleeding.
The WHO said it would update its recommendations for treating postpartum haemorrhage treatment.

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We think Pallance Dladla should consider settling in Uruguay

Spare a thought for Television hunk Pallance Dladla, who was recently arrested and detained by police after he was found in possession of dagga.
According to the Sunday World, the Isibaya actor who plays Jabulani Zungu in the popular Mzansi Magic soapie, was arrested at Montecasino in Fourways, northern Johannesburg after police were alerted by security guards to a man smoking dagga in the casino complex.
If the 25-year-old Dladla, was in Uruguay he would have not attracted the media spotlight.
In 2014, Uruguay legalized the possession of dagga for personal use and legalizing the growing up to six plants at home.
The Netherlands and Israel have legal programs for growing medical cannabis but do not allow cultivation of marijuana for recreational use.

Canada has introduced a legislation aimed at regulating recreational marijuana use by July 2018.

According to media reports dried and fresh cannabis, as well as cannabis oil, will be initially available with edible products to follow. Medical marijuana is already legal in Canada.

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The fight against the spread of cervical cancer is intensifying in Mzansi

More than five thousand new cases of cervical cancer are reported in South Africa each year, half of these end in death.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 80% of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The virus can infect the genital area and cause from something small like a genital wart to cervical and other cancers.

About 80% of cancer cases attributable to HPV were in developing countries.

The highest estimated incidence rates are in sub-Saharan Africa, Melanesia, Latin America and the Caribbean, south-central Asia and southeast Asia.

In March 2014, the South African Department of Health launched a campaign to provide HPV vaccine to girls aged 9 and 10.

The government says the purpose of this intervention is to implement one of the four basic components of cervical cancer control, namely primary prevention.

But Dr. Zizipho Mbulawa, of the Department of Pathology, Division of Medical Virology, University of Cape Town says there is very little data on the prevalence of HPV and HPV types in women with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL) or cervical cancer in the former Transkei region of Eastern Cape Province.


-HSIL is the name given to squamous cells on a Pap test (also called a Pap smear or cervical cytology) that appear abnormal and signal an increased risk of squamous cervical cancer. –

Mbulawa, who was recently awarded funds by the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) to help her research more about the HPV in the former Transkei region of the Eastern Cape Province says HSIL Cervical cancer incidences are likely to be under-reported in that province because of “an underdeveloped health infrastructure.”

CANSA is a non-profit organization set up to fight cancer and offer support to cancer sufferers also acknowledges the importance of building the capacity of a new generation of cancer researchers to further develop much-needed advances in cancer research in South Africa.

Mbulawa, says the project will determine the prevalence of specific HPV genotypes in HSIL cervical cancer biopsies from hospital-based recruitment sites Nelson Mandela Academic hospital based in Mthatha.

Mbulawa says biopsies will be transported to Centre for HIV and STI’s Cape Town laboratory where the HPV detection and genotyping will be undertaken.

“All laboratory staff working on the project will receive training on the purpose of the project, the nature of the tests involved and the importance of confidentiality,” Mbulawa told CANSA.

“As part of the HPV vaccination strategy in South Africa, it is important to have baseline data on HPV so that the impact of vaccination can be assessed. This project will provide baseline data on the HPV types present in invasive cervical cancers and high-grade cervical lesions in unvaccinated women.”

Mbulawa says data from this project is important for monitoring trends of HPV genotypes in the former Transkei region.


  • Current guidelines recommend that women ages 21 to 29 have a Pap test every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 are advised to continue having a Pap test every three years, or every five years if they also get the HPV DNA test at the same time.
  • Women over 65 can stop testing if they’ve had three normal Pap tests in a row, or two HPV DNA and Pap tests with no abnormal results.
  • If you or your child has warts of any kind that cause embarrassment, discomfort or pain, seek advice from your doctor.


Meanwhile, CANSA, one of the largest funders of cancer research and advocacy in South Africa is calling on research to apply for funding and grants.

CANSA says the purpose of this funding is to support high-quality research that will reduce risk, advance management and improve outcomes for the most common cancers in South Africa.  Apply here (closing date 31 May 2017).

Sources: Mayo clinic, sanews.gov.za, and CANSA

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Medication errors cost more than US$ 42 billion annually

Every person around the world will at some point in their life take medicines to prevent or treat illness. However, medicines do sometimes cause serious harm if taken incorrectly, monitored insufficiently or as the result of an error, accident or communication problems.

Globally, the cost associated with medication errors is estimated at US$ 42 billion annually or almost 1% of total global health expenditure.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the United States of America alone.

While low- and middle-income countries are estimated to have similar rates of medication-related adverse events in high-income countries, the impact is about twice as much in terms of the number of years of healthy life lost.

Many countries lack good data, which will be gathered as part of the initiative.

“We all expect to be helped, not harmed when we take medication,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

“Apart from the human cost, medication errors place an enormous and unnecessary strain on health budgets. Preventing errors saves money and saves lives.”

Medication errors can be caused by health worker fatigue, overcrowding, staff shortages, poor training and the wrong information being given to patients, among other reasons.

Any one of these, or a combination, can affect the prescribing, dispensing, consumption, and monitoring of medications, which can result in severe harm, disability, and even death.

Recently, the WHO launched a global initiative aimed at reducing severe, avoidable medication-associated harm in all countries by 50% over the next 5 years.

The Global Patient Safety Challenge on Medication Safety aims to address the weaknesses in health systems that lead to medication errors and the severe harm that results.

“It lays out ways to improve the way medicines are prescribed, distributed and consumed, and increase awareness among patients about the risks associated with the improper use of medication,” said WHO.

Meanwhile, the 7th of April is World Health Day, this year’s theme and the campaign is depression.

According to the WHO suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds. Fortunately, depression can be prevented and treated.

According to the Mayo Clinic depression, signs and symptoms can differ in men and women. Men also tend to use different coping skills — both healthy and unhealthy — than women do.

It isn’t clear why men and women may experience depression differently. It likely involves a few factors, including brain chemistry, hormones, and life experiences.

Sources: Mayo Clinic and WHO



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