People living with HIV are more likely than others to become sick with tuberculosis (TB). This is because HIV weakens the immune system which makes it harder for the body to fight TB germs.
After she was initiated on antiretroviral therapy (ART) 36-year-old Meryline* from Gweru district was encouraged by the USAID/ZHI supported Direct Service Delivery (DSD) Nurse to get TB preventive Treatment (TPT).
“The nurse explained that while there are higher chances of contracting TB for people living with HIV (PLHIV), the disease is preventable.”
Meryline was undecided. She was worried about taking too many tablets. How was she going to manage?
“Although I appreciated what the nurse was saying, the thought of taking too many pills frightened me. I started thinking about the side effects. Since I was not feeling sick, I felt it was better for me not to overload myself with medicines.”
The DSD nurse had a long counselling session with Meryline where she highlighted the advantages of TPT. Meryline was told that she was going to be initiated on a shorter preventive therapy for TB called 3HP. Unlike in the past where clients received a six-month treatment, the new shorter TB preventive treatment only takes three months. The new treatment is not only taken for a shorter duration with less doses, but it also has less side effects.
“I felt relieved from what the nurse said and decided to take TPT. True to the nurse’s word, I never experienced any side effects, the tablets were not as many as I thought. I am happy that I am protected from the deadly TB disease.”
Meryline is now a strong advocate of TPT among her peers, “I take every opportunity to encourage people living with HIV to take TPT. No one should die from TB, it’s preventable!”
Zimbabwe is among the countries with the highest burden of TB-HIV and multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB – with more than 1000 new cases per year for HIV-associated TB and rifampicin-resistant TB (Global Tuberculosis Report 2021). ZHI through its USAID supported Accelerated, and Comprehensive HIV Care and Treatment for Epidemic Control in Zimbabwe (ACCE) program initiated 18 689 people living with HIV on TPT from October 2021 to February 2022. To further improve the uptake of the shorter treatment regimens for TB prevention among PLHIV, the ACCE program trained a total of 223 healthcare workers in Midlands and Manicaland provinces in the month of March 2022.