Ettie Jabulile Mdluli was told by doctors she would never walk again after contracting spinal tuberculosis.
Before the diagnosis, Ettie had been receiving anti-retroviral treatment for HIV. It’s estimated that people with HIV are up to 34 times more likely to develop TB, according to the World Health Organisation.
There didn’t appear to be much hope. But one day she turned on the radio and heard a woman, with a condition similar to her own, talking about how she had made a recovery thanks to help from the South African Red Cross.
Ettie spotted some Red Cross volunteers passing her home in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, and called them over to ask for help. It proved to be a life-changing moment.
The volunteers listened to her story and booked an appointment with her for the following week.
Ettie was bedridden and in a wheelchair. The volunteers helped her with bathing and collecting medication. They also helped her with exercises. In time, she became stronger and began using a walking frame.
Ettie’s rehabilitation continued with physiotherapy sessions at hospital and she eventually started using crutches to help her move around. She went from strength to strength and now only uses one crutch when walking.
A Red Cross support group also advises her on how to follow a positive lifestyle to overcome the numerous hurdles she faces.
“If I hadn’t got help from the Red Cross, I would still be in a wheelchair,” said Ettie. “Through my support group, I have grown in confidence and have learnt new things.
“One day, I want to become a Red Cross volunteer and help others get help the way I did. I have referred other people I know to the Red Cross.”
Across South Africa, more than six million people are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS.
Stigma surrounding HIV is still a big problem and is one of the issues the Red Cross is working hard to address through its youth peer education programme.
Young people, trained to promote life skills and positive living, talk to their peers in communities and schools on issues such as sexual and reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, HIV and TB.
The Red Cross has 1,300 volunteers across KwaZulu-Natal, who provide a lifeline to people in their community.
People’s Postcode Lottery support
The British Red Cross has been supporting HIV programmes in South Africa since 1999. Red Cross work in KwaZulu-Natal is part funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Thanks to their fantastic support, Red Cross staff and volunteers are able to support people with HIV and TB and raise awareness about the diseases.