Today is World Tuberculosis Day and Prince Nhlanganiso Zulu, the son of Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, tells DRUM that contracting the disease in 2010 caught him by surprise.
"I was very fit, I loved exercise and when I started losing weight I thought it was because I was getting fitter," he says. "I started coughing, I struggled to eat and I was always sweating but I didn’t think much of it so I ignored the symptoms."
The prince says by the time he discovered it was TB it was almost too late and he spent three months in hospital fighting for his life.
"I thought I was going to die, I was afraid to close my eyes at night because I thought I would never wake up," he recalls. "I was bed-ridden for so long I started developing bed sores."
He says the king had to be screened too as TB is an airborne disease.
"I am the eldest son of the king’s second wife, Buhle Zulu, and my family would come to the hospital to support me but everyone had to keep safe from contracting TB," he explains.
He says he realised that TB does not discriminate, he didn’t expect to get it but is now using his status as a leader in his community to raise awareness.
"I am calling to government to make instructions on TB medication be written in people’s home languages because we come from the rural areas and some people can’t read English," he says.
According to the prince, 300 people in KwaZulu-Natal die from TB every month.
"The main challenge is that people don’t have food and you have to eat when you take your treatment," he adds.
"We need to ensure that in places where people are diagnosed they can also have access to food for their survival."
He adds that he has recovered but had to remove one of his lungs after putting strain on it while exercising. "These days I exercise by running but there are certain things I had to change," he says. "I can’t be around people who smoke, and I’m watching my diet. But, I’m living a normal life and I try to live it to the fullest."