“I’ve been living with TB for three years and I had come to terms with my condition,” Erick tells OurHealth. “But when I found out recently that I am HIV-positive, it put a lot of pressure on me.”
“I get scared sometimes and start to think that I am dying and that I stand no chance of surviving this situation,” adds Erick, who lives in Ngalavhani village.
Tuberculosis treatment usually takes about eight months usually but the illness can come back. Multi- or extensively drug-resistant TB treatment can take about two years or more.
His wife, Margaret Mudanalo says she has noticed the change in Erick after he found out about being HIV-positive.
“He’s a very strong man, but testing positive for HIV hit him hard,” Margaret says. “He finds it difficult to accept that it is possible for a person to be infected with more than one virus or disease at a time.”
“I try to give him all the support a man needs from his wife, but sometimes it’s difficult because he distances himself from me and it is not good for our family,” she adds.
But the majority of TB patients in South Africa are just like Erick. According to the Department of Health, about 60 percent of all TB patients are also living with HIV.
While most people carry TB, only about ten percent of people will ever develop active TB. However, with compromised immune systems, people living with HIV are about 40 times more likely to develop active TB, which remains a leading killer of HIV-positive people globally.
Because many TB patients are, like Erick, living with two diseases, the Department of Health recommends TB patients are offered HIV testing – and that HIV and TB services are offered together.
Mashudu Nekhavhambe, a staff member at Matavhela Clinic says Mudanalo is recovering well on his TB treatment. Nekhavhambe says he hopes he will continue to show up for his treatments like he always has.
“We know that it is not easy for someone to find out that they are HIV-positive,” Nekhavhambe tells OurHealth. “It takes time to get used to the idea, and because people are different, some accept their status sooner than others.”
“The most important thing is for us to see that all our patients are taking their antiretrovirals (ARVs) regularly and properly,” adds Nekhavhambe.
Erick has not completely lost hope though.
“The home-based care people come around to check on me twice a week,” he says. “They are always advising me to keep on taking the TB treatment and to also start to take ARVs.
“I used to think that when someone was HIV-positive it meant they had AIDS but the home-based care people have helped me understand that HIV is just a virus and it can be managed,” he adds. “I find it very hard to cope with both HIV and TB but with all the support I am getting from the clinic, home-based care workers and my family, I believe I will be fine.”