26 10 2012

She is a small unassuming woman…

Precious was a single mother whose husband ran off with one of his girlfriends.

She was left to care for and rear her four children.

Deep in rural Transkei, where she lived, there were no jobs so Precious left her children with relatives and set out for Johannesburg to look for a job.

A village in rural Transkei

Because of her lack of education Precious could only manage to find a job as a housekeeper. She was hard working and loyal and within a few years she found the ideal job. She was well paid and had beautiful, furnished accommodation. Her employer was very generous. Precious often had her children and relatives in Johannesburg with her for weekends and holidays. She managed to save money to rebuild her home in the Transkei and cared well for her children and other members of her family.

Precious was happy. Precious was appreciated!

A few years ago Precious got a cold. The cold virus was rampant and within two weeks Precious was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. After discharge Precious remained weak and her recovery took a long time.

Two months later Precious was sick again and her second admission to hospital within six months occurred. This time Precious remained ill and struggled to get back on her feet. No amount of tonics, health drinks or vitamins seemed to have any effect on her health.

This is where I came into the picture. The employer asked me to come and see Precious to see if I could get to the bottom of her lingering illness.

That tiny forty five year old lady had shrunk to thirty-nine kilograms. I counselled her and she agreed to have an HIV test. In less than five minutes I had a positive result. Precious was very sick, in fact Precious was dying. We started her on antiretroviral medication before we even had the CD4 count or the viral load tally. Her weight dropped to thirty six Kilograms within a week. The CD4 count was 67 when we got it ten days later and her X-rays confirmed pulmonary Tuberculosis. Treatment for TB was started immediately.

The sequel to the story is that Precious now has a CD4 count of over 500 and she is managing part-time employment. She is clear of Tuberculosis. Her original employer is still supplying her with groceries to assure that she eats a healthy diet. We think that her ex-husband is dead because we heard that he was very ill.

The story of Precious is no different from thousands of people in my country, but not everyone is lucky enough to have someone who cares.

©Teresa Denton


A Virus comes to Stay, The HIV Time Line

19 10 2012

The first recognised cases of AIDS were identified in 1981 when a very rare form of pneumonia (Pneumonia carinii ), thrush and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer) suddenly made an appearance simultaneously in several patients admitted to hospitals in the USA.

Adler tells us in Development of the epidemic (1988) that these patients were young homosexual men with damaged immune systems.

In 1983 a virus was identified and known as LAV (lymphadenopathy-associated virus).

In May 1986 the virus was renamed as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)

Soon afterwards a new disease made an appearance among heterosexual people in Central Africa. This disease destroyed the immune systems, caused severe diarrhoea and gross weight loss. In Africa it was called ‘slim disease’.

Alta van Dyk describes (HIV/AIDS Care & Counselling) in detail the claims and protracted court case between Dr Luc Montagnier of the Louis Pasteur Institute and Dr Robert Gallo of the USA. Both claimed the discovery of the virus. After intervention of the presidents of France and the USA a compromise was reached and both scientists were officially recognised as the co- discoverers of the virus according to Conner & Kingman (The Search for the Virus).

Two viruses are associated with AIDS; HIV-1 and HIV-2.

HIV-1 was isolated in Central, East & southern Africa, North and Southern America, Europe and the rest of the world.  HIV-2 was discovered in West Africa in 1986. Due to global travel these viruses will cross borders.

In 1987 the first antiretroviral drug AZT (zidovudine) was approved for use.

In 1994 ART (antiretroviral therapy) was used for the first time to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

It was in 1995 that triple drug therapy was introduced. It took another decade before some countries in southern Africa started using ART.

At this stage all the world’s governments recognise the need for ART as a response to HIV infection. The roll out to infected individuals is impeded by the prohibitive cost  of the drugs.

ART is used for:

  • Long-term treatment of persons with established infections
  • Short-term prevention- mother-to-child-transmission; occupational exposure and traumatic exposure after sexual assault or rape.

Active research is now being undertaken to develop ART for the prevention of accidental or casual exposure.

HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence.

We can all play a part in fighting this pandemic, no matter how small. Don’t underestimate your own contribution.

©Teresa Denton

A World Apart

14 10 2012

If we think we are a world apart.

How can we be expected to understand

the lives of the HIV infected and their kin?

Surely we can’t be expected to play a part!

Even if we are a world apart,

we can expel fear by getting informed

about the condition known as HIV or Aids.

With up to date knowledge we can start.

Our lives may be a world apart,

but we can encourage friends and family

to get tested and know their status.

Each life we save will play a part.

Our future is not at all a world apart.

We cannot ignore because no one is safe.

Keep virus free with active prevention

and show the positive that we have a heart.

©Teresa Denton

TB and HIV

5 10 2012

Back in the mid 1980’s we thought we had Tuberculosis under control.

We thought we had all the answers; we immunised babies at birth and  campaigned widely to educate our people about TB. We had excellent drugs and we only had to control the drug administration so that we could cure TB in six months!

Sub- Saharan Africa has been plagued with Tuberculosis for a number of centuries and at last we felt we could see the light.

Then the Human Immunodeficiency Virus came to our shores!

A very grateful Mycobacterium Tuberculosis grabbed at the opportunity to form a very successful partnership with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Simply put, HIV attacks the human immune system and weakens it then the TB bacillus attacks the human with the diminished resistance.

The partnership is so successful that they even share some signs and symptoms.


General weakness and tiredness

Loss of appetite

Loss of weight

Chronic cough (Pulmonary TB)


General weakness and tiredness

Loss of appetite

Loss of weight

Chronic cough (PCP)


TB is diagnosed by specific skin tests; Sputum cultures; X rays and the clinical picture

HIV is diagnosed by specific skin tests; blood tests for CD4 and viral load counts and the clinical picture.

Due to the stigma of HIV, many people with TB signs and symptoms are disappearing underground to avoid diagnosis and the associated shame.

It does not mean that everyone with TB is HIV positive or that all those who are HIV positive will have TB, but if you live in a country where TB is endemic, both conditions should be considered and eliminated.

In some countries these ‘twins’ are inseparable. Sub Saharan Africa is particularly susceptable to both

How do we fight this situation?

By extensive health education we must constantly try to eliminate the HIV stigma and encourage all our community members to be tested.

Remember Tuberculosis is curable and HIV is careable.

Accept the challenge!

©Teresa Denton

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