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Zolelwa Sifumba

I contracted TB as a medical student while doing clinical rotations in hospitals in Cape Town. In October 2012, I was diagnosed with Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis Lymphadenitis and had to take TB treatment for about 2 years.

Being diagnosed with TB came as a huge shock for as I didn’t have any of the risk factors associated with TB, except that I was a healthcare worker, working in hospitals where infection control measures aren’t always implemented.
My degree has been quite hard but I have been able to pull through. I spent my junior school years attending school in East London then spent my high school years at a boarding school in Kwa-Zulu Natal. I am HIV negative; I have never had TB before or any other serious illnesses.
I contracted multi-drug resistant TB in 2012 while doing clinical work in the wards of GF Jooste Hospital in Mannenburg, Cape Town. Many of the people that walk into Jooste have a cough that has either not been investigated or has been diagnosed as TB but just don’t care.
During the 18 months spent on treatment I pushed my faculty to radically overhaul its approach to occupational health.
I was infected on my hospital rounds. At the time infection control at some of the hospitals we worked in was not strict – finding a protective mask was often difficult or impossible, and there was a bit of a culture of medical students not wearing masks, as if we were somehow immune.

To be honest I don’t enjoy telling my story, it was a difficult time and public appearances are not easy for me. But I also know that my testimony has forced improvements in occupational safety for some healthcare workers, and I will continue to speak out for long as healthcare workers in South Africa are forced to work in hostile conditions.
(Credit: Médecins Sans Frontières)

Photo Credit: The Global Fund

Other Members

Bart Willems

In 2012, I swam four and a half laps of the Long Street pool in Cape Town entirely under water. When I surfaced, I covered a distance of 114 m and have broken the South African freediving record. This win was made extra special by the fact that I recovered from TB five years earlier.

Andrea von Delft

As a physiotherapist, I knew about TB, but not enough. I was generally thinking, “it’s out there.” It wasn’t until my husband, a medical doctor, was diagnosed with TB, that I realise that anyone can get TB and that health workers are particular at risk of contracting TB.

Dalene von Delft

I was diagnosed with MDR-TB on Christmas Eve of 2010. What followed was a harrowing 19 months of treatment, during which I had to make some potentially life-threatening decisions in an attempt to preserve my hearing and career. I had optimal access to all forms of care, but the vast majority of other patients are not nearly as lucky. I became a very motivated TB patient/physician advocate, campaigning for more effective, safer and equitable treatment options on local and global platforms.

Phumeza Tisile

I am a 30-year-old (2020) and live in Cape Town. In 2010, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was forced to stop my studies at Cape Peninsula University of Technology to go for treatment. Despite this my condition did not improve, and after about five months of treatment, first for “normal” TB and then for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), I was finally diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), the deadliest form of the disease