When FRONTLINE’s cameras left Swaziland last summer, the characters featured in TB Silent Killer were all at different stages in their treatment. Young Nokubheka had improved enough to leave the national TB hospital there, while her friend Gcebile had discharged herself after being diagnosed with an even more deadly form of the disease. Bheki, meanwhile, was grieving the death of his sister and fearing he might be next. Roughly seven months later, how are they doing?
Nokubheka was able to see her brother, Melusi, after leaving the hospital, but now lives too far away for regular visits. After a brief stay with a foster family, she has moved in with extended family in the eastern part of the country. The family relies on subsistence farming for food, and with a drought underway there is the risk that poor nutrition could weaken her immune system and put her in danger of a relapse.
Bheki is at home with his mother, and has about a year to go with his TB treatment. He still dislikes his medication — the associated joint pain makes it tough for him to work — but is following doctor’s orders nonetheless. Bheki isn’t back playing soccer yet, but he still goes to games as often as he can.
After her diagnosis for extensively drug-resistant TB, Gcebile decided to discharge herself from the hospital. “I’ve left everything in God’s hands,” she said. Her condition soon deteriorated, and by January, roughly four months after FRONTLINE stopped filming, she had been readmitted. Doctors had to stop giving her injections because they were causing her to lose too much weight.
For those with questions about how to help the people featured in TB Silent Killer, filmmaker Jezza Neumann’s company, True Vision, has established an independent charity, the Aletheia Foundation, to collect donations for people featured in its films. Additional details are available here.