NHLANGANO, SWAZILAND — With the world's highest HIV rate, the kingdom of Swaziland also battles drug-resistant tuberculosis -- the main cause of death among patients with HIV/AIDS. Those who have TB often live in remote homesteads in the Swazi mountains and getting to a clinic is a challenge. As Emily Iob reports for VOA from Nhlangano, a new home injection program holds out new hope for tackling TB.
Mai Nambuli is still a bit hesitant, but soon she will be the personal nurse for her friend Nosipho Mpama.
Mpama has drug-resistant tuberculosis and needs medication injected every day for six months. But she can’t make the several kilometer journey to the nearest clinic.
“It's difficult to reach the clinic because I'm still weak. I know her ((Manbuli)) as a good RHM, and she is confidential with people's problems," Mpama said.
Nambuli was an RHM or Rural Health Motivator.
Now she is being trained to be a Community Treatment Supporter, or CTS, by the non-profit group Doctors Without Borders -- known in French as MSF for Medecins Sans Frontieres.
For her, it was only natural to help her friend. “When she asked me, I felt I had the skills to help her with the treatment until she gets better,” Nambuli said.
The MSF program was launched in 2008 with the idea that if the sick can’t travel to treatment, then treatment must be brought to them.
In mountainous and remote Swaziland, this promises to help save many lives.
But first, the Swazi government had to be convinced to allow MSF to run the project, says MSF Doctor Sidumo Gumbo.
“Initially it was a challenge because I mean, even myself, it wouldn't be easy to be treated with someone whom I know is not qualified to do that. But in our case, in our setting, more people are being taught. I mean the benefits I've seen in the support groups, more people actually are getting better,” Sidumo said.
In Swaziland, MSF has trained about 35 CTS so far, and they have treated more than 200 patients. It’s a good start, but with more than 1,000 cases of drug-resistant TB diagnosed here each year, there's is a long way to go.