The exciting news for me over the past month has been the result of my last sputum test. I recently received a third sputum negative result.
The doctor told me they are waiting for confirmation of these results from Mbabane (national reference laboratory). Once confirmed, then I will stop taking injections at the end of May 2011. I couldn’t be happier!
I have to be honest, the MDR TB injections are very painful and I have run out of places that have not been injected, or aren’t painful, in my bums and thighs. The pills are quite bitter too, making it difficult to take them. This treatment calls for commitment in order to make it.
For me, finishing the injection phase means I will now only come to the clinic once a month for drug refills and support group meetings, instead of daily. It also means I can now even work because I no longer have to go to hospital for injections every day.
Before falling ill, I used to work for a forestry company here in Shiselweni, where I marked the length of logs and also assisted in counting each worker’s load for the day. However, getting sick meant I had to give up my livelihood. It got so bad that I lost weight from 76kg to 48kg, which is what I weighed when I started MDR TB treatment over five months ago.
Although a difficult journey, the MDR TB treatment has helped me regain my weight and I now weigh 70kg. My CD4 count has also gone up from 25, where it stood when I started taking ARVs, to 441 in December 2010. Even though I still feel a bit tired from time to time and sometimes have cramps, generally, I feel quite healthy.
Not being able to work is a real worry for me because I have a son who is still at school doing Form 4. My family has no source of income and we rely on handouts, as well as natural field greens that we cook and eat, together with maize meal.
Even this year, my son’s school fees are being paid by one lady who works here at the Nhlangano Health Centre. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if my son would be at school. I don’t know whether she will be able to assist next year. That worries me because my son really wants to complete school and provide for the family.
In my family, I have three sisters, two of whom are also HIV positive. One of them started ARVs (antiretrovirals) before me, while the other still has a high CD4 count and has not started treatment. However, she checks this at the health centre regularly to monitor her health. As a family, my sisters and I encourage each other to adhere to treatment and also live positively in order to keep ourselves healthy and alive.
I am also glad to be a member of a very good support group here at the health centre. We support and encourage each other without going out and talking about each other’s problems and issues.
It is, however, quite painful when we lose some of our members. Late last year we lost one male member of our support group. This year, I think about a month ago, we lost a female member. The most painful part is when we are not even able to bury each other because we cannot afford to travel to the deceased’s home.
It would be a great help if the government gave some kind of financial support to us as patients with HIV and TB, especially MDR TB. It’s very difficult to adhere to treatment when you are hungry and the drugs erode your stomach.
Losing our counterparts also brings fear to some of us. However, personally, I chose to avoid listening to people who talk negatively about the treatment, yet they don’t know anything about it. When I started this treatment, I decided that I would only listen to and do what my doctor or nurse tells me and nobody else.
I will also ensure that I keep my kidneys as healthy as I can by avoiding traditional medicines. Mixing these with the strong drugs we take is not good because it destroys your liver. I have chosen to live, difficult as it may be!