Dalene von Delft

When 30-year-old Dalene von Delft was still a medical student she contracted multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), probably from constant exposure to patients with the disease, although she cannot be sure about that. Von Delft, already facing the prospect of death, also began to lose her hearing. By the time she was taking 30 tablets a day she was swallowing back her own vomit to keep the pills down. The treatment was harder to bear than the disease and there was always the threat of sudden death as a side effect. It was then that she applied for compassionate access to a drug called Bedaquiline, which she saw as her only chance. The drug cured her TB and now, as a full-time emergency-room doctor she uses her spare time to press for the drug to be made available to all TB sufferers. Along with her husband, and with some fellow MDR-TB sufferers, she founded a group called TB Proof. The group, which includes people who have been affected by TB, either themselves or through loved ones, does advocacy work locally and abroad, informing people about Bedaquiline and the need to make it available in South Africa. Earlier this year, through USaid in Washington, DC, TB Proof was awarded the Centre for Global Health and Diplomacy Award for distinguished work in the field of global health diplomacy. Von Delft is a member of a growing global movement to bring MDR-TB into the media spotlight. The disease recently made the cover of Time magazine. In the meantime, Von Delft and TB Proof have been holding teaching sessions with most of the medical and allied health students at the universities of Stellenbosch (where she lives with her husband) and Cape Town, educating them about the risks of contracting TB and how to protect themselves. — Ilham Rawoot