Hope in a Dark Time

Speeches Shim

Friday, May 7, 2021
Ismoil playing with his pet in a yard.

Ismoil Oblonazarzoda, a 30-year-old handyman from the Panjakent district in northern Tajikistan, first noticed troubling symptoms in late 2018. He was sweating at night, easily fatigued, and visibly losing weight. In early 2019, he received the staggering news that he had drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). 

He was soon not able to be on his feet for long periods of time, making it impossible to work. This had a major impact, for, unfortunately, Ismoil was the only income earner for his family, including his wife, grandmother, younger sister, and three children.

“There was no light at the end of the tunnel,” Ismoil said. “Drug-resistant tuberculosis made my life hell.”

Tajikistan is one of the top 30 countries globally with a high burden of TB and drug-resistant TB, fueled by a general lack of awareness of how TB spreads and fears of the stigma that accompanies TB diagnosis. Between 2016 and 2017, the Tajikistan National Tuberculosis Program conducted a nationwide study that revealed that 20 percent of new TB patients and over 40 percent of previously treated TB patients had multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

As soon as the neighbors found out that I was sick with tuberculosis, they stopped visiting us... This was the most difficult time of my life. We lived on my grandmother's pension of 300 somoni ($26.5) a month and could only afford to buy flour and butter.”

Later that year, Ismoil became his district’s first resident to enroll with the USAID Eliminating TB in Central Asia Project. The project works with the Tajikistan National Tuberculosis Program to provide TB patients with people-centered care that helps newly diagnosed individuals find treatment and guide them through the process to be cured.  

The project also involves communities to assist in the detection and treatment of TB while also training local healthcare workers to provide quality TB care and have opportunities to find innovative solutions in TB diagnosis and treatment. 

Once Ismoil enrolled, the project assigned Ahmadjon Oblokulov, an outreach worker, to first help Ismoil’s situation by assisting him with his application for unemployment compensation.

“I met Ahmadjon when I thought there was no hope for me and that I had no options...Most importantly, he assured me that if I am committed to the treatment, and follow the medicine schedule, there is a chance I will be cured and have all my troubles go away.” – said Ismoil.

Ahmadjon then helped Ismoil to start his treatment plan and informed him about the severe consequences of treatment interruption. With Ahmadjon’s constant support, Ismoil never missed a day of his anti-TB medicines during his 18 month-treatment.

Ahmadjon also connected Ismoil with community support for vulnerable residents and was even able to convince the village administration to rent farmland to Ismoil so he could provide for his family. 

“Ahmadjon not only provided me with psychological support but he also helped me tackle the serious problems that were affecting me and my family.”  

During his check-up in February 2021, Ismoil found out that his treatment was complete and he was now cured from TB. Ismoil and his family's joy knew no bounds.

"This support helped me a lot in completing my treatment. … I am sure that there would have been no way for me to overcome these difficulties if it were not for the help that I received from USAID,” noted Ismoil.

Since June 2020, the USAID Eliminating TB project screened more than 19,000 persons among vulnerable and high-risk populations in Tajikistan, including close-contacts, 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: June 17, 2021

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