Dr Arne von Delft
Arne von Delft qualified as a medical doctor from Stellenbosch University in South Africa in 2006 and completed his internship years in East London in the Eastern Cape. He remained involved in a rural health promotion initiative that he co-founded as a medical student, Getting Rural Right, but ultimately decided to pursue a career in Stem Cell Research. He had just started specializing in Hematological Pathology when his wife, Dalene (also a doctor), was diagnosed with occupational pulmonary MDR-TB.
What followed was a harrowing 19 months of treatment, during which she had to make potentially life-threatening decisions in an attempt to preserve her hearing and career. Dalene had optimal access to all forms of care, including very fortuitous use of the first new TB drug in 42 years, Bedaquiline, on South Africa’s short-lived compassionate use program.
Arne experienced the horror of dealing with drug resistant TB, as a supporting husband and clinician, but also as a patient: he suffered through an episode of suspected primary pleural MDR-TB that fortunately resolved without treatment and is now thought to have latent infection. A subsequent attempt to treat this latent infection was discontinued after six weeks due to progressive fluoroquinolone-induced tendon damage with risk of Achilles tendon rupture.
Dalene and Arne consider themselves extremely fortunate to have recovered so well from this debilitating disease – the vast majority of other DR-TB patients are not nearly as lucky. They subsequently co-founded ‘TB Proof’, a TB prevention education and awareness campaign that seeks to destigmatize TB and empower health workers and students to protect themselves and their patients more effectively against TB transmission. As TB patient/physician advocates, they also campaign for more effective, safer and equitable treatment options on various national and international platforms.
Arne subsequently changed his field of specialization and is currently a registrar in Public Health Medicine (MMed) at the University of Cape Town under the employment of Western Cape Government Health. One of his key projects is to assist with the development and implementation of Catch & Match, an integrated model of community-based care, featuring an innovative mHealth solution linked to the Provincial Health Data Centre.