Stay Motivated and Save Your Life from MDR-TB

Nurse of the National Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan visits Ahmed to check on progress of his treatment.

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. Yet recovery from TB is possible. An estimated 53 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2016. In Turkmenistan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are supporting the Ministry of Health to upgrade rapid molecular detection laboratories, which can detect TB and MDR-TB (multi drug resistant tuberculosis) in just a few hours to a few days. A partnership with the National Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan is also helping to ensure patients get the support they need to adhere to the often gruelling, but life-saving, treatment regime.

“I spent 8 weeks in the hospital. That was the scariest time of my life. I saw how someone with TB died. I knew that this person didn’t take the treatment seriously. He was missing his doctor’s appointments, didn’t let his nurse to come in to check on him, didn’t take medicines on time, and his treatment failed. That case made me realize, that I want to fight for my health and that I want to live with my family, see my children, my wife and my friends,” stated Ahmed.

Highlights

  • Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat. WHO estimates that there were 600 000 new cases with resistance to rifampicin – the most effective first-line drug, of which 490 000 had MDR-TB. Globally, TB incidence is falling at about 2% per year. This needs to accelerate to a 4–5% annual decline to reach the 2020 milestones of the End TB Strategy.
  • Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • In Turkmenistan, rapid TB diagnostics is available in each of 5 regions of the country.
  • Treatment of MDR-TB is available countrywide.
  • UNDP and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria project work with the Red Crescent to support MDR-TB patients undergo the treatment.

For the last 18 months Ahmed, 45, has been taking medicines every day and receiving psycho-social support from the Red Crescent society. He also undergoes a medical check-up every month, waiting for the disease to recede.

Despite the difficulties he faces living with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), Ahmed has a very strong will to recover and get back to his life as a house painter in car-care center, which he had to give up as the smell and particles of car paint in the air interferes with TB treatment.

“I worked in the car-care center for whole my life. My oldest son also repairs cars. But once I took up a short-term job as the warehouse guard where I was on duty during night shifts in the cold winter season. After I was done with my contract, I was coughing and had a fever. I realized that something was wrong. It wasn’t a regular cold,” remembers Ahmed.

Just like Ahmed, TB patients often experience a cough and fever which they attribute to the cold or flu. However, the disease can progress rapidly.

When Ahmed was referred to the hospital he had an X-ray of his lungs. The doctor then sent Ahmed to the Center for Prevention and Treatment of TB in Ashgabat. With the help of the latest equipment Ahmed was diagnosed with TB within 2 hours and rushed into the hospital for immediate treatment.

For many, coming back from the hospital is another challenge. Ahmed remembers that his wife and his children were very supportive, and his friends visited him too. They strictly adhered to the rules of hygiene and living with a TB patient. Ahmed remembers that the nurse from the Red Crescent society educated him and his family about TB, to show that recovery is possible and to help him to adhere to the treatment. After 8 months the sputum tests showed the treatment had been successful. Now Ahmed has just another 2 months before his treatment is completed.

“I gave up smoking. I have also quit taking alcohol. I am lucky to have my family and my friends. I am also lucky that I can visit the school of patients and talk to the staff of the Red Crescent. They do a very important job. When I meet other TB patients who are not adhering to the treatment, I try to convince them to do so. But it is always the choice of the person whether he wants to save his life or not,” says Ahmed.

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