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World T-Shirt day

"The T-shirts are here!"

I am in the clinic room with a patient but hear the cry go up from next door. The floor of the flimsy prefab building creaks and gives with the sudden influx of nurse and counsellors to the room beyond.

Today is World TB day, and everyone who is anyone has a special T-shirt. Swing a cat in the clinic waiting room and you would hit half a dozen different NGOs: feeding groups, research groups, patient support groups, medical charities. And today each has their special T shirt and we are no different. I sign off my patients paperwork and they wander off. I slip next door and join the throng looking for a shirt. "Here, these are mens. Try medium," says Thandi. I do. It hangs rather loosely below my waist. Sister Manke eyes me critically.

"Ah, Ed. You are but a small man." I glare at her but she does not notice.


T-shirted up, we load into the cars and head off in convoy through Khayelitsha to the soccer stadium for the World TB fayre, hosted by the City of Cape Town. AnyNGO who is anyNGO will be there. The outside has rows of new palm trees and tastefully cobbled walkways - a World Cup face lift. The inside is more in keeping with the environs. We all make our way in. It looks like around 10-20 organisations are represented. The biggest queue is for the Provincial Dept of Health tent where free blood pressure and blood sugar checks are on offer. The queue to the free "sputum testing" is a little shorter.

A drama group are doing a sketch. Lots of running and coughing. The watching crowd laugh and cheer appreciatively. "What is happening?" I ask one of our Xhosa nurses.

"He has TB but hasn't taken his medications for a few weeks and is getting sick again." The charactes engage in animated conversation with each other. I catch "MDR" and "TB" a few times and get the gist.

The compere applauds them as they end. "Weren't they amazing?! Now, who can remember what the sketch was about?" A lady rushes up and gives her answer into the microphone. "Very good - yes, you must take your medication if you have TB or you will get MDR and get very sick!" he affirms. The prize is a... you guessed it... T-shirt. The woman takes it, studies it briefly, and then looks grumpily at the compere. They exchange a few sentences. "What do you mean 'It isn't your size?'", he cries into the mic. "This shirt is like a condom - one size fits all!"

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