Vincent, 42, arrived at Dambwa Clinic in June 2005 unsure of why he was ill. His voice was so soft that he could barely be heard between coughs. He lives in Livingstone District, Zambia, which has 30.8% HIV-prevalence rate.
After a tuberculosis (TB) sputum examination and chest X-ray screening, he was diagnosed with TB. He began treatment immediately. But the TB drugs did not help. His health went from bad to worse. Late that year, Vincent returned to the clinic.
The nurse at Dambwa clinic suggested Vincent get counseled and tested for the virus that causes AIDS. He agreed. Then the health counselor shared with him the destructive link between TB and HIV, and explained about tandem treatment for both infections. When tested, 70% of the TB patients at Livingstone clinics prove positive for HIV. Vincent, too, tested positive. Surprisingly, he was relieved to know his results because all this time he felt he had been bewitched.
The Dambwa Clinic opened its doors to Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing services in 2002. Two years later, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started to support TB/HIV collaborative activities to encourage people to be tested for both co-infections. Last year, the Livingstone District Health Management Team and CDC joined hands to renovate a counseling room for TB/HIV and VCT activities, paid for by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
The new and improved clinic led to an immediate rise in the number of people getting tested and referred for antiretroviral therapy. Vincent was one of those lucky patients. As he began his anti-retroviral medications and saw his health returning, he began to reach out to his friends and family. He stopped complaining of chest pains or swollen legs. He got a job as a bricklayer and is now able to feed and support his family.
The collaboration between TB/HIV counseling and testing services is helping Zambians to maximize access to existing, effective interventions in the community.