Luwiza Makukula is an Administration Officer at Community Initiative for TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria (CITAM+), an ACTION partner. She is also an Interim Secretary for the Coalition of Zambian Woman Living with HIV/AIDS (COZWHA+). Before joining CITAM+, Luwiza worked for Kara Counselling and Training Trust for six years, an organization focused on treatment, care and support of orphaned & vulnerable children and the co-epidemic of TB/HIV. Luwiza completed a media and advocacy skills training course, sponsored by ACTION, in Kenya.
She is also a TB survivor.
I lost my spouse of 13 years in 2001. Immediately after his death, I started getting sick with persistent fevers. I then suffered from tuberculosis (TB) and was diagnosed HIV positive in 2002. At that time l had no knowledge about TB and HIV.
In March 2002, l was hospitalized and put in an isolation ward. That was one of the most difficult moments in my life, mostly because of the stigmatization attached to TB, including stigma from health care workers. As if I had not had enough, I lost my memory, I could not walk, I had no feeling in my feet, and I could only operate from a wheelchair. I was put on TB treatment and after three months I started my HIV treatment.
At the time I started my HIV treatment I bought antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) with financial support from my family. Unfortunately, some of my friends and family who were eligible for treatment could not afford to purchase them in Zambia. Fortunately, I only bought ARVs for four months until the Zambian government, through the Global Fund, introduced free drugs.
The Global Fund is a financial institution dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, TB, and malaria. The partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector, and affected communities represents an innovative approach to international health financing.
In 2004, I started a 20-member support group called TUSO – meaning HELP – comprising of men and women living with HIV, and most of whom were TB survivors. We worked in the communities to follow up with patients who were on TB treatment, and to monitor them to ensure they completed their medication. We had 500 clients who successfully completed treatment thanks to the Global Fund.
The Global Fund
The people of Zambia particularly those living with TB, HIV/AIDS and malaria are highly indebted to the Global Fund, without which I and other fellow Zambians would not be alive today. It is because of the fund that people living with HIV, TB, and malaria are able to access drugs. I have witnessed some health facilities close, and those in need of drugs end up suffering.
To date, TB remains the number one killer of people living with HIV. However the emergence of multidrug resistant TB (MDR – TB) is threatening treatment of the disease. The development risks reversing all the gains we have made in the fight against TB, HIV/AIDS and malaria if donors do not invest in the Global Fund to combat MDR - TB.
My will to live
The most touching part of my life around 2002 was that a lot of lives were lost to TB/HIV due to unavailability of free treatment. It was also difficult for me to adhere to my treatment regimen as I was taking more than ten tablets at once every day – besides the ARVs – due to multiple opportunistic infections.
I nearly went into depression, but because I had the WILL to live for the sake of my two beautiful daughters and also the support and love I received from my family, I thought to myself that if I give up nobody would take care of my children who were still very young at the time. I was both their mother and father and that motivated me to continue living a productive and positive life with my children. The fact that I imagined my daughters growing up as mothers and I could be a happy grandmother heightened my strength. This, as of today, has since come to pass as I am a happy grandma of two.
We must increase funding for essential drugs and support services from the Global Fund so that we can speak for the voiceless and serve millions of people – especially those on life saving treatment.