In her home country of Malawi, Thokozile works for the Tikondane PLWHA Women Support Group, which helps to intensify TB case finding. Her organisation, started in 2004, comprises of HIV support groups that receive and conduct community education sessions on TB aimed at people with HIV. In addition to providing education, they have also established a mobile clinic, developed a TB-HIV integration community education manual and have mobilised 400 women living with HIV to join support groups where they are screened for TB. Women from these support groups have also been trained to assist with DOTS and other TB interventions within their communities, thus illustrating the essential role of women as care and support providers in the community.
In the international development scene, Thokozile is the Community Representative on the Stop TB Partnerships working group on New Tools and Diagnostic. The mission of this working group is to implement research, advocacy and/or operational activities in pursuit of the development of TB diagnostic tools and of the aims of the Stop TB Partnership. Through this group Thokozile brings to the forefront the views and challenges faced by those directly affected by TB. On the launch of the new diagnostic tool GeneXpert in December 2010, Thokozile responded by saying,
“We, the Community Representatives on New Diagnostics Working Group, on behalf of ourselves and other Community Representatives want to CONGRATULATE you and the entire members of FIND on this historic approval of Xpert by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Please don’t forget that there is still a bigger target, point-of-care test, and we look forward to when FIND or others will make it available. We will be glad to work more with you on this, both in individual and organizational capacities.”
While GeneXpert promises to simultaneously identify Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) and resistance to rifampicin (RIF) within two hours and in HIV/AIDS positive patients, the GeneXpert machine must be housed within a laboratory setting with a trained professional to conduct the test, making this virtually impossible to use in remote or hard to reach settings. It also does little to take into account the financial hardship faced by those who need the test the most to be able to afford travel to and from health clinics. With this new breakthrough, now is the perfect opportunity to look forward to being able to develop a rapid point of care test for tuberculosis that is able to test all those who need it, no matter their location.
With Thokozile’s wealth of experience and knowledge about the challenges of tackling TB, we look forward to working closely with her in engaging our grassroots activists and the UK government during the week of World TB Day (24th March)!