Bhekisisa Spaces

Bhekisisa Twitter Spaces are online sessions that allow our readers to engage with experts, policymakers and activists on prevalent health issues.


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

SA’s new HIV & TB action plan has big plans to boost #mentalhealth care in the public health sector. It sounds good, in theory, but is it viable?

  • 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.

Date: 5 April 2023
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Why SA needs the anti-HIV injection — for R120 a pop

What do researchers, activists and policymakers think of the an HIV prevention shot taken every eight weeks?

  • The HIV prevention injection called long-acting cabotegravir (aka CAB-LA), currently costs more than R300 000 per person for a year’s supply in the United States.
  • This prices the medicine out of range for many governments, including South Africa’s. If nothing changes, South Africa will not have access to the injection and people will have to rely on other HIV prevention measures, like the oral pill Truvada or the vaginal ring.
  • The injection could be made for as little as R300 per person, shows research conducted by the Clinton Health Access Initiative. But the drug’s manufacturer shows few signs of slashing the cost.

Date: 30 March 2022
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