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[LISTEN] The world’s biggest HIV & TB programme has a new goal: Happiness

  • The health department wants to improve South Africans’ quality of life, including making it easier to get medicines that treat anxiety, depression and substance use disorders. This is according to the government’s new five-year (2023-2028) action plan for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Mental health, HIV and TB operate in an endless loop. Anxious and depressed people are more likely to become infected with HIV or TB than others, because they have a higher chance of engaging in risky behaviours such as unprotected sex or smoking. People with HIV and TB are also more likely to battle with their mental health, which can make it more harder for them to get the treatment they need, or to keep taking their medication daily.
  • Currently, professional nurses cannot legally prescribe psychiatric medicines in South Africa, so the country’s nursing laws must change before this plan can become a reality, even though the HIV plan is short of more than R7.2-billion to achieve its goals by 2028.

Bhekisisa’s news editor, Joan van Dyk, moderated this discussion. She was joined by the following experts: 

  • Francois Venter, a doctor and the head of a HIV research unit Ezintsha, which is based at the University of the Witwatersrand; 
  • Andy Gray, an expert in pharmacology and the regulation of medicines. Gray also a senior pharmacology lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal;
  • Juliet Houghton, the chief executive officer of the Southern African HIV Clinicians’ Society; 
  • Yogan Pillay, the country director of the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

LISTEN to the full discussion: