My experience with the health system and TB

Lihle Dlamini is the Deputy General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign. Her HIV activism started in 2002 when she was diagnosed with TB and experienced the horrors of the South African public health system.
Lihle Dlamini describes her experience of being diagnosed with TB in the South African public health system
I had to wake up at 3am to be in line for treatment. If you arrive after 7:30am, they chase you away. In 2002 I had night sweats and I had lost weight. I went to my local clinic and asked to be tested for TB. I was told I had to give sputum for the test to be done. I was given two bottles to bring back the next morning with sputum in. I took them back after 11:00 am and the nurse shouted at me, asking why I had come so late with the bottles. I told her it was very hard waking up in the morning. It was winter and the bottles had more saliva than sputum. My aunt then took me to Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. There I was diagnosed with TB pleural effusion. The NIH [explains]( "NIH explanation of TB pleural effusion.") that "This is a buildup of fluid in the space between the lining of the lung and the lung tissue (pleural space) after a severe, usually long-term infection with tuberculosis." I was referred to the Durban Chest clinic with my documents.When I got to the chest clinic, they insisted on getting my sputum. They gave me a bottle and I went to the sputum room and only managed to produce saliva. We had been arguing with the nurse for about 5 minutes about my sputum, until she decided to walk away. That’s when I realised I had to get sputum in that bottle. The clinic did an x-ray, which showed no sign of TB. Nevertheless, they gave me tablets because I had documents from Edendale, stating that I had TB. Tablets were very big and hard to swallow. I had to take 17 pills, in total, including Bactrim, paradoxin, iron tablets and other tablets I didn’t know. Another challenge was going to the clinic for follow up tests. I had to wake up at 3am to be in line for treatment. If you arrive after 7:30am, they chase you away. So you really do have to wake up early. But they only open the clinic gates at 7am! Even if you were the first in line, there was no guarantee that you would go home early. Most of the time, we had to spend the whole day in the clinic.

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By Lihle Dlamini

Published: Aug. 17, 2011, 4:32 p.m.

Last updated: Aug. 18, 2011, 10:40 a.m.

Tags: Diagnostics

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