My name is Elisha Tshuma and I live in Gokwe, a remote area in Zimbabwe, with my wife and four children. I am 37 years old and I was first diagnosed with TB in September 2007 but I did not accept the diagnosis and I went back home without getting any help or medicine. It was only in 2008 when I was getting worse by the day when I decided to go back to the clinic. I was put on TB treatment for 6 months but I did not go back for my doctors review or for the scheduled sputum tests as I could not afford the transport to the clinic. I did not think this would cause any harm seeing that I was starting to feel better. I was certain that I was cured since I could do the things that I had stopped doing before like playing soccer or ploughing in the field.
In 2009 I started coughing much more than I had ever done before. I went back to the hospital and they confirmed that I had TB again. I was put back on TB treatment, but because I lived far from the clinic I could not get the recommended injections all the time or on time. Later one I was told that all of this had added to the reasons why I had developed MDRTB. In 2011, I was diagnosed with TB for the third time. I was admitted into hospital for 60 days to ensure that I received my medication and injections every day. However my health did not improve. I continued to cough; I had joint aches and pain all over my body.
In 2012, with the help of MSF, I returned to the hospital and my sputum was tested for MDR-TB using the Gene Xpert Machine. When I was told I had MDR-TB, I was not sure how to handle it at first. I was afraid of telling my wife for fear that she would leave me. Before they told me that MSF would be paying for my entire treatment I had been discouraged. I had lost all hope. I was not sure I could be on treatment for such a long time, in view of the other TB treatment failures. I officially started my MDR-TB treatment on Valentine’s Day of this year.
The start of treatment was not easy. It was hard. It was really very hard. I experienced what seemed like endless side effects such as a bloated stomach, psychosis and hot flushes. I am certain that the heavens had it written down that February 2013 was the month that Elisha Tshuma was supposed to die. My neighbors jeered at me and they told the entire community that I was HIV positive and that they should start digging my grave. My family wanted to leave me; my friends were disgusted by me. I was all alone.
I wanted to give up but I decided to focus on the value of my life and what it meant to me. I thought about my children growing up without a father and this gave me the strength to fight to get better. This is what I would like to tell other people who may be in a similar situation. Our lives do not belong to us alone, we share them with other people such as our children and we should never give up on them. Pain is only temporary. This medication has returned to me all of the years that MDR-TB had planned to steal from me.