My name is Jabulile Sithole. I am 38 years old and live at Emakhweleni, a small community in the Shiselweni Region, southern part of Swaziland.
In 2008, I developed a constant cough, which would not go away even when I took cough mixtures and cold and flu tablets. I later started sweating profusely at night and eventually developed unending diarrhoea. This resulted in me losing a lot of weight until even my physical appearance seemed like that of an old wrinkled lady.
Realising that I was slowly dying, I eventually had to overcome the nagging fear of testing for HIV. In November 2008, I went to Nhlangano Health Centre and took an HIV test. As suspected, I was found HIV positive, with a CD4 count of 25. After undergoing pre-ART counselling, I started my anti-retroviral treatment (ART).
At the same time, I was screened and diagnosed with TB. I was on TB treatment for six months, taking pills until June 2009, when the doctor told me I could stop taking the treatment.
In 2010, I started coughing again, losing appetite and weight again. I went back to the TB clinic and was diagnosed, once again, with TB. Because I was having TB for the second time, I was told that I would have to get injections every day for two months and then continue with TB tablets for a further eight months.
I started the injections in June 2010 until August 2010. While I was continuing with pills only, I was told that I actually had MDR-TB and was started on MDR-TB treatment on the 1st November 2010. I have now been getting injections every day for almost five months and am looking forward to finishing this extremely painful phase of the treatment. I have already had two sputum negative results, which means if a third result comes back negative, then I can be discharged from the injection phase.
It will be a bit easier to continue with the pills only because the injection phase has been the worst part of the treatment for me. It was very difficult at first because I suffered from dizziness, vomiting and was tired all the time and very weak. The pills I am taking are also too many because right now I am taking up to 21-and-a-half tablets, including the three second-line ARVs I am also taking. My wish is that there could be just one pill for MDR-TB patients to take. This would take a huge burden off MDR-TB patients’ shoulders.
Despite the difficulty of the treatment, I have persevered because I want to live and be there for my sons, aged 19 and 21, one of whom is still in school (Form 4). I have been very open to them about my HIV status and they know that I am on treatment and have accepted and support me. Their support means a lot to me. I have also gained most of my weight back and no longer look like an old lady.