This week Siyayinqoba Beat It! examines the issue of adherence through two diseases: HIV and diabetes. Both are life-long and potentially life-threatening, but are also manageable through continuous long-term treatment. They belong to a group of diseases known as chronics, which also includes TB, pneumonia, cervical cancer and diarrhoea. These can be treated and in some cases beaten through prevention efforts and early treatment. This also has the added benefit of reducing overcrowding in hospitals where resources are stretched to the limit.
Diabetes is commonly associated with older people but it can also affect children like Lelethu Nyalase, who was diagnosed when she was six years old. Her mother, Thembaka, has to keep a constant watch to make sure Lelethu sticks to her daily treatment and stays healthy. In our studio, musician and actor Tshepo “Howza” Mosese, who is also diabetic, talks about his work as a youth ambassador to encourage openness and knowledge about diabetes. He says it can be difficult for people to accept the disease as part of their life and to undertake the strict treatment regime required to control it.
These issues apply equally to HIV. In our second insert Nontuthuzelo Jaje, who is HIV positive, talks about the importance of adhering to her daily treatment regimen. Like Lelethu she benefits from caring family members who remind to take her ARVs at the right time. Adherence is vital, says Dr Trevor Majoro, because otherwise the virus can become resistant to the ARVs and this resistant strain can be passed on to others. Lifestyle choices, ignorance and tiredness can all lead people to stop taking their medication. Yet adherence is absolutely vital for patients to manage chronic illnesses while the benefits of adherence extend far into the wider healthcare system.