UNMASKED, WE ALL BREATH
TB is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide, killing 1.8 million people and infecting 10.6 million yearly. A particularly nasty strain of TB is Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB). Healthcare workers are 6 times more at risk of contracting MDR-TB than the public.
The treatment for MDR-TB is radical, extremely painful, lasting up to 2 years, with a 60/40% chance of life or death, and until recently, had a high rate of permanent deafness.
This is the topic of a documentary called Unmasked, We All Breath, produced by Ikana Health Action Lab, following four South African doctors who contracted MDR-TB occupationally, their arduous journey of treatment, the affect it had on their working and personal lives and the South African health care system.
I photographed the main characters Dr. Zolelwa Sifumba, a medical student and surgeon Dr Arlette Bekker as well as Drs Arne and Darlene von Delft and Dr Thato Mosidi.
There’s a stigma around TB in South Africa and these brave and passionate doctors use their status to speak out about the lack of research, making treatment affordable and less invasive, bringing the world’s attention to this neglected area of health care, opening up a very vulnerable part of their lives to share their story of going from doctor, to patient.
Zolelwa one of the brightest lights in the SA healthcare system, intelligent, forward-thinking, confident, ambitious.
“It was a big shock to be diagnosed with MDR-TB. The treatment was terrible and there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t long to die. “