Minister Motsoaledi delivers Stephen Lawn Memorial lecture in Cape Town

South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi delivered this year’s Stephen Lawn Memorial lecture, reminding those listening of the commitments made at the first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB in 2018, and highlighting how South Africa plans to make the goals to end TB a reality.

The lecture (available to listen to here) honours the late Professor Stephen Lawn, who was a professor of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Cape Town (UCT). Professor Lawn was a leading specialist in HIV and TB, having made significant contributions to the diagnosis and treatment of TB among populations affected by HIV/AIDS and to reducing the burden of HIV-associated TB. Stephen died from a brain tumour in September 2016, aged 50.

Minister Motsoaledi said: “If we are able to meet the Sustainable Development Goal’s target by 2030, or earlier, we will be able to honour the legacy of Stephen Lawn, as well as other researchers and clinicians who dedicated their lives to saving the lives of others.”

As part of the lecture, held in UCT on 2 April, in the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) Minister Motsoaledi reminded the audience of the five asks that were made during the UN HLM on TB. He went on to confirm the strength of the South African commitment, and to outline what the nation has done, or is planning, as a response, including:

  • The introduction of a programme, which uses contact tracing, to find half of the missing 160,000 people with TB who have not been diagnosed, by the end of next year. 38,000 have already been found by screening family members;
  • The need for increased vigilance amongst primary health care workers, including a policy for TB screening of people visiting hospitals for other reasons;
  • The need for a policy to ensure health workers are tested for TB annually;
  • To encourage employers to have TB screening programmes, and to encourage leaders (both traditional and religious) to act as ambassadors for TB;
  • The use of Gene Xpert as a test for tuberculosis, and the relatively high use of isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) for HIV positive people, compared to global usage;
  • The availability of additional funds for case finding and treatment;
  • The importance of partnerships with other TB research networks to undertake research to create new affordable tools and vaccines to enable the elimination of TB.

Linda-Gail Bekker, Chief Operating Officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, on behalf of Stephen Lawn’s wife Joy Lawn, said she wanted to “bring to people’s attention that Steve would have been 53, and that these lectures remind us all not only of the fantastic body of work that he did, and remind us that TB and HIV still need our time, and attention, our thoughts, our research, our money, our passion, but also remind us that there are these connections around the world.” Going forth the annual lecture will alternate between London and Cape Town.

The lecture was hosted by the IDM, UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences, the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and the LSHTM, and supported by the Stephen Lawn Memorial Fund that continues to inspire a new generation of TB researchers, facilitated by a global partnership between the TB Centre of LSHTM in the UK, the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, The Union and The Lancet.

Part of the fund supports a prize for an upcoming researcher conducting promising work focused on reducing the disease burden of TB and HIV/AIDS in Africa. The award is presented at the Union World Conference on Lung Health and last year was awarded to Dr Christine Sekaggya-Wiltshire, who leads the HIV-TB clinic at the Infectious Diseases Institute at Makerere University in Kampala. Dr Sekaggya-Wiltshire was also recently featured in a Lancet profile piece.

Further information

Find out more about the fund and make a donation.

Find out more about The Stephen Lawn TB-HIV Research Leadership Prize