Saida is an ordinary woman. She was born into a happy family in East Kazakhstan and got married after graduating from university. When she gave birth to her baby girl, she was sent for some x-rays. The outcome shocked Saida – she had TB in her right lung. She was afraid that her friends and family would turn their backs on her when they found out because there is a lot of stigma towards people with TB, and the treatment process is very difficult and isolating. Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB) patients in Kazakhstan usually need to be treated daily for 18 – 24 months and during the first 6 months they are hospitalized. Moreover, Saida knew that there was a critical shortage of medicines for MDR TB patients in her region. It was the most terrifying moment of her life.
Saida found out about the USAID TB CARE project and the Tuberculosis Control Assistance Program USAID supports. The program is designed to improve the management and patient support of multi-drug resistant TB cases in the province. USAID TB CARE provided psychological support, assistance in obtaining documentation, interim housing during treatment, assistance in obtaining state invalid benefits, and food and hygiene parcels to more than 200 MDR TB patients in East Kazakhstan oblast.
Saida received a long, but ultimately effective, treatment through the USAID program and was cured. But sticking to TB treatment can be a challenge, and Saida struggled to complete it. “At the beginning of treatment, because of side effects, sometimes I wanted to stop treatment. At that moment I thought about my two small children and understood that I must complete treatment to be cured.”
During the treatment Saida started to help members of the patient support group to meet with patients and discuss their health and personal problems. After treatment completion, Saida continued to meet with the patient support group and helped them to work with MDR TB patients. With the support of this TB program, Saida opened an NGO which helps people with TB get the necessary treatment and social support and also seeks to overcome stigma. She said, “I want all multi-drug resistant TB people to fight for their lives and to believe in themselves and in the people who support them.”