Fired for getting HIV medication at hospital: Patient in Mozambique

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HIV/AIDS stigmatisation is still rife in Mozambique and one person who has felt its wrath is Antonio Tamgonie. The 28-year-old says the moment revealing his HIV status to his boss was tantamount to a resignation. He was fired and he remains unemployed.

“In the beginning when I exposed my case, he said it was ok, as I was working in the warehouse (and) I was responsible for the warehouse. And I was working in shifts. So, I would tell him I have to go out to get the medications and he would say, tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow never came,” he says.

He says one day he tried to prioritise his health and that never ended well.

“So, one day I didn’t feel well and I decided to lock the warehouse and go to the hospital. So, the day I returned to the warehouse to give him the keys he said no more chance for you.”

This year marks 10 years since Doctors Without Border (MSF), arrived in Beira, Mozambique to assist the country’s frail health system curb a dual epidemic of HIV and tuberculosis.

According to the humanitarian body, Mozambique has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world.

The NGO says around 13% of people aged 15-49 are infected, and 34 000 people co-infected with HIV and TB die each year.

People with living with advanced HIV and TB infections has been MSF’s primary focus, including what they term “key populations” which include sex workers, young people doing drugs as well as the LGBTQI+ community.

But Doctors Without Borders’ Dr Shehezady Cruz believes with better communication between governments and health practitioners when it comes to issues of treating HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, among others, ,more lives could be saved.

Speaking to the SABC News at offices of the MSF in Beira, Cruz says following the government’s decision to change the HIV drug regime, they noticed a rise in the number of patients showing signs of HIV Drug Resistance.

“We realised there was a problem with the medication when we started seeing patients that were not improving with the current medication because they had low CD4 counts, and very high viral loads as well as clinical deterioration and had many opportunistic infections and we knew that they had good adherence (to treatment).”

“And even with this support they continued deteriorating and we saw that there was a need for these genotyping tests to see if these medications were effective and to see what other options (to consider),” adds Cruz.

Cruz says the phenomenon picked up following the changing of the drug regime called on them to roll out genotyping – a procedure to test the efficacy of drugs in patients.

She says it was this that allowed them to make the necessary interventions.

“So, these tests, we use can detect some mutations in the gene of HIV cells. If a patient has resistance and they are on this medication, it won’t make any change (to their health). They will have to change to the one that can be effective. So, genotyping is a test that can be done to see the inefficacy of the current treatment and other options that can be used that are limited in our context.”

But all is not lost, as Cruz believes their efforts in dealing with cases of advanced HIV infections, in one of the cities in the southeast African country, are bearing fruit.