She said that her department had been contemplating the move, but that they had waited for the go-ahead from President Thabo Mbeki in his state of the nation address.

‘€œWe have got to train as many nurses as possible. Even if we train too many and some leave,’€ said Tshabalala-Msimang at a media briefing in parliament.

She added that the much anticipated Human Resource Plan for Health would be released on April 7 to coincide with World Health Day.

Tshabalala-Msimang said the list of colleges to be re-opened would be released in ‘€œdue course’€ adding that the department was finding it challenging to recruit tutors as many had left the public service.

‘€œWe are discussing with the Department of Public Service and Administration to ensure that even those who took voluntary severance packages can be considered as part of this recruitment drive,’€ she said.

Two year’€™s community service will also be extended to nurses, the last group of health professionals to participate in the programme. Tshabalala-Msimang also indicated that they were in the process of reviewing remuneration packages for healthcare professionals and that it should be completed this year.

Tuberculosis has been singled out as a specific challenge for 2006 with a TB Crisis Management Plan due for release on World TB Day next month. The plan identifies at least four districts that are facing the most challenges in terms of the prevalence of TB and low cure rates. Extra resources will be mobilized to ensure tangible improvements in these districts, according to the minister.

Tshabalala-Msimang indicated that this year she wanted to ensure that ‘€œprevention reassumes its rightful position in the response to HIV and AIDS’€.

She said the aim was to increase the number of facilities that provide Voluntary Counselling and Testing, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programmes and the management of sexually transmitted infections, especially herpes.

Government figures revealed that at least 100 000 people at 229 accredited sites had accessed anti-retroviral therapy by the end of 2005.