TB Control Programme | Western Cape Government

TB Control Programme


The TB Control Programme aims to identify 80% of people who have TB and to cure them at the first attempt. The programme also tries to identify the infectious pool of people.

What is TB?

TB is a bacterial disease, and is a serious problem in South Africa, especially in the Western Cape. TB is highly infectious but curable. One out of ten people develop the disease. If not treated, the infectious person can affect 20 other people or more in a year.

TB spreads when infected people with pulmonary (lung) TB cough tiny droplets containing TB into the air, and others breathe them in. People who have TB of other parts of the body are not infectious. A persistent cough of two weeks or more is the main sign of TB, so the earlier the client goes to the clinic to get examined, the easier it is to cure. More severe signs are coughing up of blood, nightsweats, loss of weight and shortness of breath.

Symptoms of TB?

The symptoms of tuberculosis depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. Tuberculosis bacteria often grow in the lungs, causing pulmonary tuberculosis.

  • Bad Cough for longer than three weeks either dry, yellow or green mucus and in some cases bloody mucus
  • Rapid Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Slight Fever
  • Night Sweats
  • Lack of appetite

Diagnosing TB

The client is examined at a primary healthcare clinic and asked to give a sputum sample and another the next day. These samples are sent to a laboratory and the results are available in 48 hours. Only one of them needs to be positive to indicate TB infection.

If the result is positive, the client will be counselled and advised on the benefits of being put on the TB control programme. If both sputum samples are positive, treatment is given immediately. An x-ray may also be taken, but the sputum tests confirm diagnosis. If the TB infection is severe, the client will be referred to a specialist TB clinic.

TB Treatment

TB can only be cured if the full course of treatment, which can be from six to eight months, is completed. People who stop treatment are likely to develop multi-drug resistance, making the TB more difficult to cure. These cases are treated at TB specialist clinics eg Brooklyn Chest Hospital. TB can be fatal if not treated.

Treatment is in two phases:

The intensive phase is when four different drugs in tablet form are given for five days a week, for two to three months.

The second phase is the continuation phase, in which two drugs are given for five days a week, for four to five months. First-time TB clients must be treated for six months, while clients who have had TB before must take TB medicine for eight months. If there are side effects from the medication, the client must return to the clinic. Sputum tests are taken again after two months on treatment to check for progress, and at five or seven months to confirm whether the client is cured.

Children with TB are given different medicines and treated for four months only. To try and prevent TB, babies should be immunised with the BCG vaccine, which is available free of charge at all primary healthcare clinics. TB meningitis is a serious illness in children and can be fatal. If suspected (symptoms include neck stiffness) the child must be taken to the clinic immediately.


The Department of Health has adopted the World Health Organisation's DOTS (directly observed treatment short course) method to ensure patients adhere to treatment. DOTS has been implemented in most clinics in the Western Cape. An important element of the strategy is the support and encouragement offered to TB clients for the entire six- to eight-month treatment period, where clients are directly observed taking their medication at the clinic.

At community level, DOTS is undertaken by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) using volunteers as "treatment supporters". TB NGOs recruit, train and supervise members of communities to function as treatment supporters for TB clients. Supporters refer TB clients to the clinic when necessary. The Cape Technikon offers training for people who want to be TB supporters. Phone 021 460 3197 for further information.

TB Care Association, Santa Cape Town and Santa Western Cape are the three NGOs that deliver community-based treatment to TB patients in the province. The provincial government provides financial assistance and support to these NGOs.

TB and HIV

The HIV epidemic has led to an enormous increase in the number of TB cases. TB, an opportunistic infection, is responsible for a third of all deaths in HIV-infected people. People with HIV are far more susceptible to TB infection, and are less able to fight it off.

The Department of Health is in the process of adopting an integrated TB and HIV/AIDS strategy. Currently voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) is offered to TB clients with the aim of reducing early death and illness. Cotrimoxazole prophylaxis (drugs to treat pneumonia) is given for dually infected individuals.

Useful Contacts

The following private organisations can also help:

  • TB/HIV Care Association:
    Head Office
    Tel: 021 425 0050
    Hanover Park Branch
    Tel: 021 692 3027
  • SANTA Western Cape
    Tel: 021 952 4966
    Cell: 071 682 3084
    For further information about branches in the Western Cape:
    E-mail: derick@santa.org.za

You should go to your local primary healthcare clinic. or visit the following TB Hospitals.

Provided At: These facility categories:
Provided by:
Government Body: (Western Cape Government)

Free of charge.

The content on this page was last updated on 3 March 2014