Patients and nurses warn TB defaulters

SIYAVUYA KHAYA

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day was on Thursday March 24, and Site C’s Nolungile Clinic, in partnership with TB Care and Medecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF), held an awareness day at Site C taxi rank to tell people that TB can be cured and to dismiss myths about the illness.

Event organiser Ndileka Mbobosi said the number of people infected with TB in Site C, particularly among the youth, was on the rise, with an alarming number of them not taking their treatment regularly.

She attributed this to a lack of family support, alcohol abuse, denial and negligence. She said they wanted to encourage families to support TB patients, while promoting regular check-ups.

“We are here to inform people about all kinds of TB and their symptoms, but most importantly, we are here to tell them that TB can be cured,” she said.

Ms Mbombosi said the focus was on normal TB, multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB and extreme drug resistant (XDR) TB.

She said they also organised the event to introduce their partners to the community.

Nurses performed educational dramas about TB symptoms and the consequences of defaulting on treatment, while Ms Mbombosi stressed that a TB diagnosis was not the end of the world.

“The fact that you don’t smoke and drink does not mean you won’t get TB, because some of the areas we live in are dirty, and they contribute to making us sick. People need to take care of their well-being and exercise regularly, not forgetting to do TB check- ups,” she said.

TB survivor Vuyani Mnqetho urged people to follow doctors’ and nurses’ instructions and not default on their treatment, which could lead to patients developing MDR or XDR-TB.

He said he could not believe when he was diagnosed with TB and had been reluctant to take the medication. But, he said, he swallowed his pride and followed the nurses’ instructions – and after a couple of months he felt he was getting better.

But then he stopped taking his medication because he thought he was cured, and that is when he relapsed and developed MDR TB.

“I was told I had to be injected every day for six months because I no longer had normal TB. Nurses told me that I would have to take treatment for a period of 18 months after the six months of injections.

“I’m taking the medication for MDR TB as I speak to you, and I’m getting better and better. It’s not a shame to have TB, and I think we need to get that out of our minds and take the medication,” he said.

Mr Mnqetho said he had learnt his lesson the hard way and appealed to people not to make the same mistakes because they might not get a second chance.

MSF counsellor Nondumiso Zulu said they worked in the clinics with patients who had MDR or XDR TB and they did home visits as well to monitor their progress.

Ms Zulu said the first phase of MDR treatment was the six months of injections and the second phase was taking medication over 18 months.

“To curb discrimination among patients that have MDR or XDR TB we have said that everyone in the clinic must wear a mask so that patients who have MDR or XDR cannot be easily discriminated against,” she said.