TB & Me: "After I take my tablets, I don’t want anyone near me"

17 March 2017

My name is Henry Matimba. I am 31-years of age. I am married with two children aged eight and three years, both girls. I live in Epworth, a peri-urban settlement a few kilometres outside Harare.

I was treated of tuberculosis (TB) at the Beatrice Road Infectious Disease Hospital (BRIDH) in 2014 and I finished my six months course.

At first the diagnosis was very difficult for me to accept

In 2016, I started coughing excessively and continuously for two weeks. I went to the Epworth polyclinic for examination and I was told that I had drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB). I was told that I was going to get medication for about 24 months. At first it was very difficult for me to accept especially when I was told that I was going to get daily injections for nine months. I was also told that I wasn’t supposed to go to work for two weeks as they feared that I could spread the disease to others.

I asked my family to go to the rural areas because I didn’t want to infect any of them, especially my child.

I started the injections on 6 May, 2016 and finished on 6 November, 2016. Now I am in the continuation phase of my treatment and am still taking my pills. Instead of nine months of injections, I had six months because I was responding well to treatment. Getting injections for six months wasn’t easy but I realised later that taking injections was better than taking pills.

After I take my tablets, I don’t want anyone near me and don’t want to hear any form of noise. The main challenge I have is vomiting. If I take my pills, I vomit. I hope this stops soon.

At work, I noticed that I was working in a closed place and air ventilation was poor. I felt people would come in and breathe the air that I had left. I couldn’t disclose to my colleagues, because I thought I would be dismissed and they would stigmatise me. But I also didn’t want to spread the disease to them. 

So I asked to be changed from my duty station so that I could work in an open space.

Now I’m working outside where there is good air ventilation but there are times when I feel like sleeping but I can’t tell people why.

Now I try to take my pills when I am at home instead but then sometimes I can’t sleep. I feel like the world is going round in circles and I see visions. This makes me very upset sometimes.

I attend support group meetings at the Epworth Polyclinic where drug-resistant TB patients meet and share their experiences as well as suggest possible coping mechanisms as a way of supporting each other. Through these meetings, I have come to realise that I am not alone and that DR-TB treatment causes a lot of side effects to almost all DR-TB patients.

I want to appeal to the government to make TB screening accessible to everyone

I would like to encourage people to go to the clinics nearer to them for TB screening.

I also want to appeal to the government to make TB screening accessible to everyone. X-rays should also be done free of charge.

I would like to thank Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for continuing to monitor us and for taking us for further tests and examinations. If it were not for MSF, we would not be able to afford the costs on our own.

I also want to thank MSF staff for continuing to visit us at home and giving us words of encouragement.

MSF in Zimbabwe is supporting the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to provide treatment and care to DR-TB patients at the Epworth polyclinic as well as in Gutu, Mutare and Mwenezi.

In order to help DR-TB patients to share experiences and suggest possible coping mechanisms, MSF in collaboration with MoHCC facilitate support group meetings for patients once every month at the Epworth Polyclinic.

MSF is also piloting the implementation of the shorter term nine months regimen of MDR-TB drugs to lessen the effects of taking medication for a longer period of time.