By Dando Mweetwa
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
People living with HIV face an additional risk of getting tuberculosis because of weakened immune systems, poverty and malnutrition. HIV-positive women are especially susceptible because they care for TB patients here.
Her second youngest child, the only one who is HIV-positive, was diagnosed with TB last year but has recovered. She says she still worries about her children's health and providing them food.
"None of us knows how I acquired the virus, but I remember washing other people's clothes, which had blood," she says.
Banda washes other people's clothes as a source of income. She says she hopes she doesn't have another TB relapse because she is her family's breadwinner. Her husband, 58, who is HIV-negative, is unemployed and too old to find work.
"I get tired of taking the TB drugs," she says. "It paralyzes my duties. I wish there was a way I can avoid getting infected."
Stella Maliwa, who is HIV-positive and the secretary for Langa, a local HIV support group, says many women living with HIV are extra prone to TB because they are the primary caregivers for chronically ill TB patients. The women lack protective garments and the patients' houses have poor ventilation, making TB transmission risks high.
The government, nongovernmental organizations and support groups are working to prevent new TB cases and relapses.
The Strengthening TB, AIDS and Malaria Prevention Programme, STAMPP, aims to strengthen the existing prevention, treatment and care strategies. Chungulo from ZAMBART says his organization has been implementing isoniazid prevention therapy, considered the first line of defense against TB, for STAMPP.
The National TB Control Programme has also been successfully implemented, thanks to the government, which has ensured the availability of drugs and diagnostic equipment recommended by the World Health Organization, according to Kapata in the Times of Zambia.
TB drugs are free, but there is a minimum laboratory free to test one's sputum – the mucus and other matter brought up from the infected lungs, bronchi and trachea.
Zambia has attained its target of 85 percent for its TB treatment success rate in recent years, according to a 2010 U.N. report. But the report cautioned that adequate resources are necessary to sustain progress and tackle the root causes of HIV/AIDS and TB in order to meet goal six of the Millennium Development Goals, a global anti-poverty initiative, to reduce these diseases by 2015.
The Sixth National Development Plan 2011-2015 emphasizes TB research and aims to expand access to appropriate care, support and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, their caregivers and their families – including services for TB.
Chungulo says TB can be reduced here with a special focus on vulnerable groups and implementation of the three I's: intensified case finding, isoniazid prevention therapy and infection control. ZAMBART aims to partner with the Ministry of Health to implement them and other TB-HIV initiatives nationwide.
Support groups are also working to empower women with HIV and TB here. Banda says she joined the Langa support group to gain knowledge about TB prevention and to learn how to earn a better living to improve her and her family's health.
"I hope to find a source of income and live in an environment where I will be free from TB relapse," Banda says.
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Dando Mweetwa reports for Global Press Institute's Zambia News Desk. She aims for her stories to be a voice for the voiceless and generate positive change in her community.