Voices from an epidemic
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa’s high TB burden places it 17 out of the world’s top 20 hardest hit countries. In 2012, the country diagnosed about 324,000 TB cases and the WHO estimates that only about 60 percent were ever cured.
TB remains the leading cause of death in South Africa, according to the latest figures released by Statistics SA.
“TB is curable but the challenge is that most TB start off in denial and follow by defaulting on treatment, which leads to a big delay in being cured,” said Nomakhosazana Nkosi, a caregiver with the Bethesda Caregivers organisation.
Nkosi added that a late diagnosis increases a patient’s risk of death.
“When some are (diagnosed) very late that they have TB and some die,” said Nomakhosazana Nkosi.
A recent community dialogue at Soweto’s Vukuzenzele Primary School aimed to remind people that with early and proper treatment, TB is curable.
OurHealth spoke to former TB patients at the event, which was hosted by the Treatment Action Campaign’s local branch, about surviving a killer.
Ntombizodwa Nkosi, 44 years old
“I was diagnosed with TB in 2013. I started TB treatment in June and in November, I (completed) treatment. It’s a good thing to test early and start treatment in time to be cured like me.”
Mandisa Mntamo, 34 years old
“I spent a long time coughing but not knowing that I had TB. In March 2014, (my samples) tested positive for TB and I initiated TB treatment immediately.
“Now in August, I have just completed my course of treatment and…I am cured.”
Lungile Samkelo, 55 years old
“I had TB in 2011 but, due to a lack of knowledge, I did not take it seriously. I ended up defaulting on treatment.
“Fortunately, there were caregivers that visited me at home while I was very sick and educated me on how important it is to adhered to treatment. As I am speaking, I am cured of TB after completing my treatment in 2013.”