Webster Katope: "I had no idea I had TB"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Webster Katope*, 43, a pastor from Lusaka who is married with three children, found out he had tuberculosis (TB) in 2007. He talked to IRIN/PlusNews about the difficulties of completing a nine-month course of medication.

"I had no idea that I had TB because I never coughed so much. I had never suffered any prolonged cough in my life. After I had malaria, that should be in late 2006, I went to the clinic. I was given some anti-malaria medication, but the problem continued even after I finished the course and I got very sick. That is when the doctor did all the tests, including sputum, stool and urine and I was caught with TB.

"My first reaction was that it was like the end of the world for me. I had heard a lot of bad things about the connection between HIV and TB so I knew chances were high that I was HIV positive. I couldn't bear that, but somehow I thank God because that helped me; it prepared me to accept the status when I was eventually found to be HIV positive about seven months ago.

“I started my medication about three weeks after I left the clinic, sometime last year (2007). It was a combination of so many drugs I can’t even remember the names; I had to take them all at once every day. They were just like any other ordinary drugs in look and taste, but they had a lot of side effects.

“During the first month when I started [the medication], I used to experience a lot of hallucinations about different things. The problem is that sometimes I could actually believe what I was hallucinating, and develop a sense of fear that perhaps they will come to pass. I also used to have recurring dreams, whereby I would dream the same thing so many times in one night, or even over a number of days.

“The drugs affected my appetite negatively. In most cases, I couldn’t feel like eating after taking them. But I always followed the doctor’s instructions that I should never skip the dose and I managed to stick to the drugs.

“The biggest problem I developed, which I still have, is what the doctor explained to me as 'peripheral neuropathy'. Due to this problem, the lower parts of my limbs are rendered numb, there is extreme sensitivity and actions like walking, which are supposed to be automatic, have become difficult. This problem also affects my balance, although now it is not as problematic as it used to be when I was taking the drugs.

“After six months, I went back to the clinic for medical reviews. I was then given fewer drugs than the ones I was taking before. I eventually finished my dose after nine months. I am feeling much better now, but I still have problems with my feet.”

"My wife has been a pillar. She knew her HIV status before I did, but she said she was afraid of telling me. She found out during the pregnancy of our last-born girl when she went for antenatal [check-up]. When I fell sick, she didn’t want to alarm me, she was just encouraging me to go for a [HIV] test. She only told me the truth after I started taking the [TB] medication.

"Some people suspect we are positive, they even ask us. But knowing people, we have decided we will keep it to ourselves; people talk. But obviously we will tell them when the right time comes.

"I still get my small allowance [as a pastor]. The one who was very much affected was my wife as a pre-school teacher. She was fired when she fell sick. Now that she has picked up after she started taking ARVs (antiretroviral drugs), she is looking for a [new] job."

*Not his real name

Source: PlusNews