It’s Christmas eve in 2015 and Sinethemba Kuse received news no one ever wants to receive - she has tested positive for tuberculosis (TB). Coupled with that, the TB wasn't normal: It was multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB).
In 2016, Sinethemba's diagnosis changed - her MDR-TB became extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), a rare form of MDR-TB.
But after two years of treatment and maintaining a fighting spirit, Sinethemba was recently discharged from her clinic as ‘cured’.
Sinethemba was on a rigorous course of medication which was at times painful and occasionally had horrendous side effects, but Doctors Without Borders clinician Dr Anja Reuter tried accessing a new drug which had gone through a few trials and appeared to be safe for children and teens to use.
After Dr. Reuter and her team successfully acquired delamanid, the new drug used for drug resistant TB, Sinethemba became the first teen in Khayelitsha to access it and has been cured.
Very few drug resistant TB sufferers can access delamanid in South Africa, because the Medicines Control Council is yet to approve the drug.
Sinethemba spoke out about her experience because she wants other people who are suffering from the same illness to also get a second chance, like she did. She wants the government to distribute the drug across the country, so all people with TB will have access to it.
According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), people with people with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB are still not receiving two newer TB drugs, bedaquiline and delamanid, which have been available for more than four years and have shown improved cure rates for the disease.
Nearly a third of people with MDR-TB, globally, could benefit from these new drugs, but use of the drugs remain limited for a number of reasons, including the fact that some national programmes are "too conservative", says MSF.
Image credit: Sydelle Willow Smith