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About this work


This film looks at the rise of TB (tuberculosis) in Swaziland; a country with 24% people who are HIV positive and who already have diminished immunity. The treatments are long-term and toxic. TB is very contagious and the new variants are spreading to Europe. The film talks to a number of infected people, including children, now orphans who have to cope alone and follows their progress during treatment. MDR (multi drug resistant) TB is hard to treat; a family of a 17 year old and his young sister discover after losing their mother that she has both MDR TB and TB; she needs to go to an isolation hospital to receive treatment. She may get well but she'll be away from her brother and miss school. A man (Bheki) whose livelihood is building has MDR TB; his health is effecting his ability to earn. His sister (Zandile) is very sick with MDR TB. His mother remembers the time before AIDs when healthcare in the community was relatively straightforward. Now TB is prevalent. Médecins sans frontières administers the complex durg treatment in a local clinic. Vomiting is a typical side-effect. A counsellor talks to a group of MDR effected patients; unfortunately if treatment is stopped then the disease wil progress leading to death - the counsellor works on compliance. The girl is admitted to The National TB Hospital and her treatment is explained. As well as the 'normal' side-effects; she could also lose some of her hearing. Her treatment will last a minimum of 6 months. The problem with the treatment is that the vomiting can lead to severe weight loss - Zandile ends up in hospital and treatment has to be stopped. Unfortunately this could result in more complex MDR strains. Bheki takes 20 different pills per day plus injections. The young girl (Nokubhega) has been in the isolation hospital for 3 months; she complains of boredom. She too needs to take many pills. The patients, many quite young, bemoan the lack of green vegetables. There are no children the same age as Nokubhega so there are no facilities for her age group. Bheki is struggling with the treatment regime; in the clinic he tells his health worker that he doesn't feel any better. His sister Zandile is in hospital; she is extremely weak. Nokubhega describes one of the most common and distressing side-effects - loss of hearing. A patient is admitted to the same hospital and ward with another complication of TB, scrofula - Nokubhega discovers that she died in the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately there is also a more extreme - XDR - TB - extreme drug resistant TB - it is virtually incurable. One young woman with XDR contracted TB from her parents who have since died together with her sister; she is terminal and has completely lost her hearing. She has complied with all the drug treatments. Bheki digs a grave for his sister; during the funeral, Bheki's house catches fire and he loses some of his medication. Nokubhega discovers she is free of TB although she still needs to take her medication; a family in her church cares for her whilst her brother is in school. Back at the TB hospital, one patient discovers she is XDR positive; the drugs she has taken are not working and she has to move to another ward. She returns home to live in isolation to die without taking further drugs.


UK : BBC 4, 2014.

Physical description

1 DVD (100 min.) : sound, color, PAL


Broadcast on 17 March 2014.

Creator/production credits

Filmed and Directed by Jezza Neumann for BBC in association with WGBH/Frontline

Copyright note

True Vision Productions



  • English

Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
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    OpenOnline request

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