Patients are their own worst enemies

While one is gravely concerned about the increasing rate of tuberculosis infections, especially given its fatal effect when combined with HIV, I must hasten to say that the majority of South Africans have been grossly irresponsible in terms of complying with the treatment of such highly infectious diseases.

While one is gravely concerned about the increasing rate of tuberculosis infections, especially given its fatal effect when combined with HIV, I must hasten to say that the majority of South Africans have been grossly irresponsible in terms of complying with the treatment of such highly infectious diseases.

It is common knowledge that the government alone cannot deal effectively with these ailments. I therefore concur with the Treatment Action Campaign that an integrated intervention is imperative in an effort to curb the perpetual spread of TB and HIV.

However, it must be placed on record that it is, in fact, generally the patients themselves who are letting us down, both when it comes to the strict adherence to the treatment regimen, as well as in displaying unforgivable negligence to complying with the medicinal instructions.

Some people would have to be threatened with tooth extraction to follow their prescription, but I doubt whether even this desperate strategy would work. It sounds almost as if they are under the self-defeating impression that they are doing everyone else a special favour by completing their treatment.

The whole world celebrated TB Day yesterday but I strongly feel that there is not much to be enthusiastic about considering that millions more people are getting infected and will continue to die.

This is tragically unnecessary because treatment is available, accessible and, most importantly, our government provides it free of charge. Yet, on a daily basis patients abscond from medical institutions throughout our country.

Needless to say, this irresponsible behaviour is costing our country millions of rands as well as the loss of countless lives - despite that this is an ailment that can be cured. What complicates matters is the risk of a recurring infection, which then means that the whole treatment must be re-administered with the greater danger of developing into a multiple drugs resistant TB.

Almost nine years ago, the Amsterdam Declaration shockingly indicated that there are eight million new TB cases yearly and two million deaths a year.

Thirdly, that TB accounts for one-third of Aids-related deaths worldwide. Furthermore, three out of every four of those stricken are young adults who should be enjoying the prime of their lives.

This laissez faire attitude towards medication is suicidal. The same mentality prevails with regard to HIV and Aids.

Many people flatly refuse to be tested, hiding under the feeble excuse that they are afraid.

Worst still, when they discover their health status, mostly through women who test during pregnancy, they must find every other reason not to take care of themselves or the others with whom this incurable infection is shared. Some go to the extent of spreading malicious rumours that their skin is allergic to condoms. What a waste of life.

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