Linda Kabotolo is a 27-year-old woman with two children. She comes from Mabuka in Matekenya village in Mulanje district. Kabotolo was diagnosed with cervical cancer in its early stages. She subsequently had a positive HIV diagnosis. Health care workers at Mulanje district hospital initiated her on 3HP for TB prevention and now she tells her story.
“In May 2022, I came here to Mulanje district hospital and after some X-rays, healthcare workers found that I had a cyst in my stomach. It turned out to be cervical cancer in its early stages. They told me I would be fine and I underwent successful radio treatment. However, it didn’t stop there. After some counseling, they also took me for an HIV test and I found out I was positive.”
Linda Kabotolo explains that after the HIV diagnosis, health workers told her that they would immediately start her on 3HP for TB preventive treatment, after ruling out active TB disease.
“At first, when the health workers told me about 3HP, I was worried because people in the village say that when one takes a lot of drugs, one can go mad. In 2019, my husband abandoned me for another woman. After that, I had no one close to break the news to except for my sister. She urged me to start and adhere to the treatment,” explains Linda who runs a hair dressing saloon but struggles economically due to lack of earnings.
After a few days, she came to the conclusion that 3HP was beneficial to her, based on what the healthcare workers had explained to her in terms of the short duration. She was greatly surprised that after taking 3HP her chest felt more light and her body felt more energized.
“I saw the pills and asked myself, how can I finish all these tablets? But later on, I noticed that 3HP had no side effects. What people say in the village, that taking lots of drugs causes madness is a lie. I can tell you that I was bedridden for three months, I wasn’t feeling well. After getting ARVs and the 3HP I felt more strong with lots of energy. If I had delayed things could have got a lot worse,” says Kabotolo.
She adds: “As a young woman I encourage my fellow young women to go to hospital early and not to delay. Both HIV and TB treatment with drugs like 3HP can save your life. Women of my age should not be afraid, it’s not the end of the world.”
Linda started her 3HP treatment in April 2022 and completed her treatment successfully in June 2022. To earn a living, she plans to diversify her business between the hair dressing saloon and selling second-hand clothes. For now, she still braids hair for her customers so she can support her two children.
Photo credit: Moses Master.