B Metro Reporter
He is nicknamed Counsellor (or is it Councillor) and his journey to earning that recognition started in 2006 when he was diagnosed with TB.
The Kadoma senior bachelor, Frank Mwale, overcame TB and has since become one of the most active campaigners to eliminate the infection, having realised how the community was unnecessarily losing members due to TB and stigma associated with the infection.
Blessed with good public relations skills and a sense of humour, Frank has become a darling of his community of Rio in Kadoma.
He says he had been ill for a while and various interventions did not seem to help with his feet swelling until there was no more space for traditional healer incisions, as he put it! Having received his diagnosis, he was put on TB treatment for six months.
However, he says it was not easy during those days as one had to bribe their way onto the list of people to benefit from antiretroviral drugs. He was determined to make his HIV treatment a success too when he was tested and found to be positive.
Now with about 11 years experience in matters of HIV and TB and several training certificates, Frank confidently says that he can easily diagnose someone with TB as he has become familiar with the symptoms.A� And it does not just end there. He does pre-counselling before convincing his catch to accompany him to hospital for further examination.
a�?The nurses now know me there. I just tell whoever I am taking there not to worry as I will do the talking while theirs is to listen. I have taken more than 30 people for TB screening and treatment at the hospital and now when I take someone there the nurses tell them that they will beat the infection since they are under my care,a�? he says.
Testing for TB is the first step and he says that he then encourages the TB patient to test for HIV as well. Once that is done the patient starts their TB treatment after which he considers it a�?a waste of resources to test their CD4 counta�? as he says the immunity would obviously be low at this stage hence the need to put the patient on Anti-Retroviral Treatment.
Convincing members of the community to go for TB screening and HIV testing has not been easy. He finds men particularly difficult though it usually takes him about two weeks to win over his target.
However, it took him a month to convince a friend of his who is a businessman to go for screening. Franka��s targets rarely want to be taken to the local clinic but prefer the general hospital. To make it easier for his targets, Frank discloses his status and walks them all the way, taking them to their preferred hospital for screening and doing the talking.
He is so passionate and takes his role so seriously that he considers the death of any of his patients a failure on his part. There are two particular cases that break his heart. The first one is of a woman that after testing HIV positive, did not find support from her relatives who dumped her and he had to take care of her for three months before she died.
Try as he did to counsel her and use himself as an example, the pain of rejection got the better of the woman who suffered from thrush, and seemed not to have been adhering to treatment, getting rid of the evidence by tearing off pages in her treatment records.
a�?That really pained me a lot. I was so angry with the aunts that up to now I do not want to see them. They only showed up after her death with groceries for her burial when we struggled to look after her when she was ill. It got to an extent during her illness that I had to do everything for her, including bathing her, though I did not want people to know that,a�? he said.
Many of his friends are female hence even the second case was that of a member of a support group that he heads who defaulted and they picked it late, and she died.
He adds that there are many cases of defaulters and once he detects these, he accompanies them to hospital and pleads on their behalf to be put back on treatment, promising to follow up on them to ensure adherence.
a�?I do that because I was helped by other people when I was ill, and people thought I would die,a�? he says.
In fact he has taken it a step further at Kadoma General Hospital Opportunistic Infections Clinic, as he sometimes asks for a list of defaulters in the community and follows them up. For all the work he appreciates being thanked for his help with a country chicken!
At 53, Frank says he does not have any known children though he mischievously suggests that he would not know if he sired any children in other mena��s homes. Such is the nature of the guy, always throwing in some humour! He acknowledges that having a life partner that understands onea��s condition would help them live longer due to the support they get.
He looks forward to getting married one day. He believes a woman from Nkulumane in Bulawayo that he met through the B-Metro dateline, two years ago and always chats with but is yet to meet, could be the woman hea��ll spend the rest of his life with.
He is making plans to meet her and is chaffed by her jealousy as she always tells him to tell Kadoma ladies to keep their hands off him. B-Metro has been assured of an invitation to the wedding one day!