Helping Patients Find Perseverance

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Outreach worker Mehrinisso visiting Sharifjon to make sure he takes all his medicines daily
Sanavbar Sherova, Regional Communications Specialist, the USAID TB in Central Asia activity

Thirty-three-year-old Sharifjon Sharipov lives in the Jomi district of southern Tajikistan with his wife and two children. The only wage earner in his family, Sharifjon spent much of the past nine years away from home. As a migrant laborer in Russia, he would spend six to nine months per year subsisting in a cramped apartment with six other labor migrants so that he could send money home. 

“Working as a labor migrant is not easy because the living conditions are usually very bad. Year after year, it was becoming increasingly difficult to work. What kept me going was the thought that I had to feed my family. So, I accepted working and living in tough conditions, taking little care of myself,” recollected Sharifjon. 

Eventually, these tough living conditions took a toll on Sharifjon’s health. He developed a cough, suffered from chest pain and night sweats, and was unable to perform the hard work to which he was accustomed. By the time Sharifjon returned to Tajikistan in February 2020, he had been sick for a month and his health was rapidly deteriorating. Both Sharifjon’s wife and mother were shocked when they saw the condition he was in. They tried their best to take care of him, but they couldn’t help worrying how they would manage while the family’s only income earner was unable to work. The family soon needed to borrow money to support themselves.

After he returned home, Sharifjon’s mother went to a local health clinic to get answers about her son’s condition. There, she met Mehrinisso Kushokova, an outreach worker with the USAID Eliminating TB in Central Asia activity. When Mehrinisso heard about Sharifjon’s symptoms, she insisted that Sharifjon be tested for TB.  

The next day, with Mehrinisso’s assistance, Sharifjon saw a doctor who immediately sent for an X-ray and sputum lab test. Sharifjon’s test results revealed he had multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Sharifjon recalled, unfortunately, that one of his roommates in Russia had the same symptoms. 

Sharifjon’s advanced disease required rapid treatment so he started two months of intensive inpatient care at the Republican Center for TB, Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery. 

“When I found out I had TB, the news made me choke. I thought I was going to die, because I thought this disease had no treatment,'' explained Sharifjon.

After 40 days in the hospital, Sharifjon was discharged to continue treatment at home, which included taking several large pills many times a day. For the next 17 months, Sharifjon battled both TB and side effects from the medication, including nausea and vomiting. He was still unable to work and despite a supportive family and periodic check-in visits from outreach worker Mehrinisso, Sharifjon became frustrated by both the side effects and the length of treatment. He then quit taking his medicines. He did not tell anyone but he could not hide the signs of his worsening health. 

Mehrinisso normally checked on Sharifjon every other day, but soon she found him with a fever and difficulty breathing. She enquired if he was taking his medicines on schedule. Luckily, Sharifjon told her the truth.

Mehrinisso counseled him that he would need to complete the full course of treatment to recover and that ending his treatment early could be deadly. She promised to help Sharifjon adhere to his treatment schedule by calling or visiting him daily.

“She did everything to convince me to take my medication exactly as the doctor prescribed. She was constantly in touch with me during the treatment, reminding me to take my medicine, providing psychological support, expressing empathy and care,” recalled Sharifjon.

Sharifjon later attended an information session conducted by outreach workers, where he not only learned more about the importance of sticking with his MDR-TB treatment, but also became confident that if he treated his condition consistently, he would be cured.  

It was at these meetings where Sharifjon also found support by meeting other people with TB as well as people with HIV, hepatitis, or who are labor migrants, drug users, or other at-risk populations. At the sessions, he heard his peers talk about their treatment and how they overcame the challenges of seeing it through to the end. He now felt that he was not alone, that there are others just like him who are struggling to overcome their disease.

“Thanks to the meetings organized by USAID, I changed my mind and attitude and understood the seriousness of my disease. Now I know that if an ill person deviates from the prescribed treatment, the disease will transform itself into a more severe one,” explained Sharifjon.

Now, Sharifjon reports that he feels better and is full of energy. He has found work at a local cement factory and is proud that he can, yet again, earn a livelihood for his family. The number of daily drugs Sharifjon takes has decreased. His doctors expects him to complete treatment in July 2021 and be fully cured.

Since June 2020, the USAID Eliminating TB activity screened more than 19,000 persons among vulnerable and high-risk populations in Tajikistan, including close-contact, migrants, and people living with HIV. The program provides technical support to the National TB Program to treat each of the 577 people who tested positive with drug-resistant tuberculosis since January 2020. 

Last updated: July 23, 2021

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