Victor Majezi (36) from Barkley West in the Northern Cape defaulted on his multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis medication for 15 years. Today he regrets it because it had a negative affect on his health.
“I defaulted and I regret it today. I was angry at the time. I didn’t have peace inside, so I never drank my tablets, and I almost didn’t make it,” he said.
Victor contracted HIV/Aids when he was raped by eight men as a young boy.
“I was diagnosed at the Dr Harry Surtie hospital in 2016 as an MDR patient with a CD4 count of minus four. The doctor told my eldest brother to take me home because I was not going to make it. He told him to let me die in peace. I think I was taking 19 tablets at the time.”
Majezi was speaking at a World TB Day commemoration held in the Barkley West township of Paballelo. “I will be 22 years HIV positive, and I am keeping strong,” he said.
What you need to know:
So, what is TB?
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. People become infected with it when they breathe in these bacteria. Because of this, it usually infects the lungs, but it can also spread from the lungs and infect other organs, like the kidneys, spine and brain.
TB of the lungs is known as pulmonary TB, and TB outside the lungs is known as extra-pulmonary or disseminated TB.
How is TB spread?
TB is spread through the air when a person with active TB of the lungs coughs, sneezes, sings or talks and droplets containing the TB bacteria are released into the air, and another person inhales it.
What is drug-resistant TB?
Drug-resistant TB is when the bacteria has developed resistance to one or more of the main anti-TB medicines. Tuberculosis can be cured. If you have a fever, are losing weight, have drenching sweats at night, or have been coughing for more than two weeks, get tested for TB as soon as possible. This can also prevent TB from spreading to people you live or work with.
Why you need to prioritise treatment
Majezi is the founder of the Isithembiso Care and Support Group. “It was difficult, but it was worth it; I do not regret it. After that I had to get closure so that I can start on ARV’s. The eight men who raped me, I got the opportunity to bury the eighth one,” he said.
He warns, “Treatment is very important, do not default, it is not worth it.”
The risks of defaulting
Tuberculosis has claimed the lives of nearly 1.5 million people and estimates last year suggested that 2 billion people were infected worldwide.
In Mzansi an even bleaker picture presents itself, Deputy President David Mabuza said.
This year’s theme for the commemoration of World TB Day was ‘Invest in action to end TB NOW! Get screened. End stigma. Save lives.’
Finding hidden patients
Mabuza said that it was a challenge to find untested patients.
“Sanac has established the TB technical working group with representation from key role players inclusive of government, civil society and development partners. Each stakeholder must be counted in the national efforts against TB,” he said.
“At last year’s commemoration of World TB Day, we received an impassioned plea from the sector of People Living with HIV, for government to declare TB as a national emergency. In response, as government, we have put together a TB Recovery Plan to address the issues raised by People Living with HIV.”
“This plan will help us to come closer to eliminating TB as a public health threat. It will also help us address challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and close gaps in the TB care cascade.”
Mabuza said there are four key areas to the TB Recovery Plan including:
1. Finding the undiagnosed people with TB in our communities. This includes the health check mobile application for TB that has been recently developed with the aim to mobilise 1 million people in communities to check their symptoms and assist in linking them to health care facilities as needed.
2. Strengthening of linkage to care, by making sure that patients diagnosed in hospitals and primary healthcare facilities are linked to quality TB care.
3. Strengthening retention in care by ensuring that patients complete the full course of treatment. Interruptions in treatment have serious consequences for ongoing transmission and sometimes lead to a resistant form of tuberculosis; and
4. Prevention by strengthening infection control measures and treatment of latent tuberculosis, including the use of newer shorter treatment regimens.