A Chain of Good Deeds

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Shahlo with her kids in a yard

When Shahlo Rahmonova received a diagnosis stating she had drug-resistant tuberculosis, her life changed abruptly. Due to misconceptions about tuberculosis, Shahlo faced shame and abandonment. However, she later found the strength to inspire others to fight TB and with the support of the USAID Eliminating Tuberculosis in Central Asia Activity, Shahlo contributed to the wellbeing of her community and inspired hope.

Shahlo Rahmonova is a 32-year-old mother of two children from the Norak district of Tajikistan. Following a common Central Asian tradition, Shahlo's parents arranged her marriage.

The initial years of her marriage were happy, full of love, and mutual respect. “Soon after our wedding, I gave birth to our first baby, a girl, and then a son, the year after. My husband was a labor migrant who would leave us every summer to work in Russia.”

In the fall of 2019, Shahlo acquired a worrisome cough. She sought medical advice at her local TB center and in November, she received a life-changing diagnosis: drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Shahlo was then referred to the Central Tuberculosis Hospital, where she learned about her disease, its symptoms, and treatment. She understood that there are different types of TB and that she would be cured, but only if she adhered to the treatment regimen.

However, after the diagnosis, Shahlo’s life began to change. After pressure from her husband’s relatives, he soon abandoned her, leaving her alone with their two children. She needed to receive three months of in-hospital treatment, but due to her unstable family situation, she had to continue her treatment at home where she often shamed in her community. Sadly, her community did not provide her with the support she needed. 

My diagnosis was made public and everyone treated me with disgust. Even though I wore a mask and ate food separately, I was treated as an outcast.” 

The stigma of tuberculosis in Tajikistan is caused by limited information about the disease. Shahlo tried to inform her family that she was no longer contagious now that she was taking medication, but still faced discrimination. She and her children were forced to move in with her parents.

Shahlo’s lack of education and minimal work experience made it difficult for her to find employment. She didn’t know how to turn her life around and move forward. In July 2020, she met a USAID Eliminating Tuberculosis in Central Asia activity outreach worker. The program offered information sessions for Shahlo and other people with TB to share their experiences with the disease. Shahlo then started talking with other people, encouraging them to adhere to the treatment regimen. The program noticed her active engagement with other participants and her eagerness to inspire others to fight TB, later earning her a position as an outreach worker. She now became a compassionate guide for other TB patients in her community, guiding them through the difficult treatment.

The support I received gave me hope and I realized that I was not alone anymore,” said Shahlo.

Soon, Shahlo’s intermediary test results showed improvement, and after eight months of treatment, she was able to reduce her daily medication regimen. 

“I’m confident that I will complete my treatment and my name will be taken off the list of TB patients.”

Today, Shahlo supports others with tuberculosis during their treatment and informs her community about the importance of timely TB screenings when symptoms arise. She is happy she is doing a good deed, while also earning a living and taking care of her children.

“I often use my own experience to inspire hope for a happy future. USAID helped me, and I will help others to not break the chain of good deeds,” said Shahlo.

Since June 2020, the USAID Eliminating Tuberculosis Activity has screened over 19,000 persons among vulnerable and high-risk populations in Tajikistan, including contacts, migrants, and people living with HIV. The program provided 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: January 18, 2022

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