One of the biggest challenges in addressing the problem of tuberculosis (TB) in South Africa, is getting patients to complete their course of treatment. Continue Reading
Community stigmas about TB, a lack of support from their families and the length of treatment - three to six pills a day for six months - make it challenging for patients to complete their treatment successfully. Sometimes patients also abandon their treatment when they start feeling better, which ultimately will lead them to develop drug-resistant TB.
This is why with the help of USAID TB Project, the Bophelong Clinic, outside Vanderbijlpark, has started a special support group for TB patients, to assist them to overcome these obstacles and be cured.
At the support group's first monthly meeting, held in early February 2012, more than 20 patients - from a toddler and her mother to elderly people - as well as community healthcare workers and NGO workers representing various organisations gathered at the local community hall.
To break the ice, the patients were asked to draw pictures of animals they felt best represented themselves. To great mirth from the others, they revealed sketches of ostriches, cats, fish, elephants and horses.
Then the serious work began, with salient questions about TB.
What is TB, they were asked. "A germ that attacks the body," a woman replied. How is TB treated? "To be cured, one must be on treatment," said another. And for how long? "Six months."
The patients were also provided with information about infection control - in other words, how to prevent infecting those around them through taking basic