Living with hope: Collaborative treatment for HIV and TB

josephine zinini
Josephine Zinini, one of the patients treated under the UNDP programme in Tambura, Western Equatoria State.

For people living with HIV, the risk of tuberculosis (TB) compounds the challenges they face. Between 10 to 20 percent of people living with HIV in South Sudan also have TB. Both illnesses are heavily stigmatized, and those affected are often reluctant to seek treatment, even where health services are available.

Financed by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNDP has been supporting a tuberculosis and HIV collaborative programme since 2006. It targets people with HIV who are likely to be infected with TB, and vice versa. The programme covers prevention, surveillance, testing and counselling. Above all, it seeks to bring hope to those living with these diseases and to decrease the number of these patients who are killed by them.

Highlights

  • UNDP has been supporting a tuberculosis and HIV collaborative programme since 2006.
  • The number of TB patients given HIV diagnostic counselling and testing rose from just 1 person in 2005, to 583 people in 2010.
  • Josephine has become instrumental in raising awareness in her community about the link between TB and HIV, and about the health services available.

Josephine Zinini is one of the patients treated under this programme in Tambura, Western Equatoria state. “TB is curable as I have been taking drugs for the past three months,” she said. “This has resulted in the improvement of my body weight from 29 kg to 38 kg. I almost lost my life using herbal concoctions but thanks to the health facility at Tambura, now I am alive.”

Josephine has become instrumental in raising awareness in her community about the link between TB and HIV, and about the health services available. Such activism is invaluable to UNDP’s efforts, because no one understands better how to reach those in need than patients themselves. They are the strongest advocates for TB and HIV programmes because they are living proof that TB can be cured, HIV managed, and the stigma overcome.

As well as boosting awareness of the treatment options, UNDP is ensuring that clinics have the capacity to offer such services. We have been supporting staff who provide diagnostic counselling and testing with training, on the job coaching and supervision, and with the provision of testing kits. The number of TB patients given HIV diagnostic counselling and testing rose from just 1 person in 2005, to 583 people in 2010.

According to Josephine, the outlook is positive. “My message to the community is that TB is treatable and curable, even if you are HIV positive like me,” she said at a public awareness event on World AIDS Day. “Let all those who have a persistent cough for more than 2 weeks go for testing and treatment at the hospital and everyone should know their HIV status and seek treatment, because HIV is preventable and manageable. Those who will be found to be positive will also be assisted in the hospital the way I was assisted and am now alive and doing well.”