TB a poor person's disease?

2012-03-30 12:53

Cape Town - Michael* is a 31-year-old self-employed husband and father of two little girls in East London.

He doesn’t smoke or drink.

Last year, Michael contracted tuberculosis.

“TB was the last thing on my mind. I thought TB was something that people [who] smoke a lot get...

“I remember telling people that were smoking [around me] ‘you mustn’t smoke, you’re going to mess up your lungs, you’re going to get TB’.”

Listen to the full interview here:

As it turned out, a colleague who was a smoker and drove to and from work with him, had the disease.

I wanted to die

Michael spoke to his doctor after he rapidly began losing weight. Soon after, he started getting night sweats. He mentioned his TB fears but the doctor insisted, even after weeks of medication and continuous weight loss, that it was just the flu.

Eventually Michael decided to get a second opinion from another doctor and in October last year, his fear was confirmed.

His wife and children had to get tested too. He had thoughts about getting into an accident to kill himself so people would rather think he died in a car crash than from TB.

“I wanted to die.”

Luckily, just weeks after starting the medication, Michael began picking up weight and feeling healthier.

Now, he is almost at the end of his treatment and says he is nearly back to full health.

Sharon* also feared the worst when told that she had contracted the disease in November 2011.

Sharon works as a personal assistant to a group of stockbrokers in Johannesburg.

High risk

When told that she tested positive for TB, Sharon said the doctors simply told her: “You’re in Africa.”

People living in Africa are at the highest risk of contracting the disease.

She woke up one night with a “severe chest pain” and doctors found a cyst on her lung. They tested her for TB and found that she had it. She feels too ashamed to tell her children and only her husband and one friend knew.

“All my life I had a fear of getting TB...”

Norman Aphane, a 42-year-old man from Jane Surse in Limpopo was calmer when told that he had the disease.

Norman had already suspected that he had TB because he worked in the metals industry and because friends had it.

“I worked in the metals industry where there was a lot of dust.


“Secondly, I had friends [who] had the disease before.

“Given that I knew the symptoms of TB by then, I was not shocked. I wasn’t worried about it.”

Norman’s advice for others who have TB is to stick with the treatment and keep eating.

For those who might not have access to a daily meal, clinics also give supplements with the TB treatment.

Michael wants the public to be better educated about the disease.

"When [health officials] do their awareness [campaigns], they don’t really cover as many territories as they should.

“There’s still this mentality if you’re poor, if you live in the township, if you don’t eat properly...

“But when I look at my case and I tell some of my friends ‘listen, I’ve been diagnosed with TB’ it’s a surprise [for them].”

What he wants is for everyone to be educated and told that they could get it. He says the only place he’s seen information publicised about TB is at clinics.

“I don’t want to know about the disease when I’ve already got it. I want to learn about it before so I can prevent it.”

*Names have been changed