Nurayim, beneficiary of the TB program under GF project. Photo: Marion Biremon

In the framework of the Global Fund Grant, the UNDP in Kyrgyzstan purchases quality drugs for the treatment of drug-resistance tuberculosis, which is entirely free for patients. The UNDP/Global Fund also gives monthly financial help to patients with drug-resistant forms of TB, who undergo treatment for up to 2 years. 

Five years ago, Nuraim thought she was on her death bed. TB had gotten so bad that she couldn’t even stand up. Now, her large smile and sincere eyes don’t even give a hint that she was once sick.

In winter 2015, Nuraim gave birth to her fourth daughter. But she barely had the strength to rejoice, as she felt weak and sick. She thought her cough would go away with the usual flu medication. But it didn’t. It’s only after six months of failed self-medication that Nuraim got an X-Ray, and a frightening diagnosis: tuberculosis.

 “When I was finally put in the hospital, I weighed only 35kg,” remembers Nuraim. After her diagnosis, she didn’t start treatment immediately because some of her relatives didn’t believe the doctors. Until she got so sick that she couldn’t even get up on her feet.

Back on her feet

 “For one month, I didn’t eat anything. I just couldn’t swallow. My seven-year-old daughter would try to make me eat, she would bring tea and ask me to drink it. It took me an hour and a half to finish a cup of tea,” she remembers.

The treatment worked like a miracle. After just one weak, she was already able to walk. “I remember the first time I got up from my hospital bed. It was so hard to walk, but I wanted to get my medication myself. I hung to the walls and made it through the corridor. When my doctor saw me, she burst into tears - tears of joy that I was alive and that I was getting better.”

National Center for Tuberculosis in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Marion Biremon / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Nuraim never skipped a dose of medication in her two years of treatment, regardless of the side-effects she got from the 25 pills she had to take every day. “I wanted to live again,” she says. She and her family lived poorly, but she received help from the National Red Crescent Society and made it through. “I remember when they gave me a first voucher for 1100 soms (15 USD). I bought so many things, and I was so happy I couldn’t hold back my tears.”

Fighting stigma and discrimination

At first, Nuraim hid her diagnosis from everyone. She was scared of stigma and discrimination. “But then I thought: why should I be ashamed that I’m sick? And I started to talk openly about it. I’m glad I did, because it helped me through the battle. I don’t know what I would have done without the moral, social and financial support I received.”

 “When a person is sick, they need a lot of help. In the hospital, I saw some patients whose mother abandoned them because they had TB. I saw patients, like me, who didn’t even have sugar or tea. If you feel loved, if you have someone to rely on, then you get back on your feet really quickly. But if there’s no one around, you start to feel useless and to lose hope.”

Many patients stop their TB treatment because it’s very long and difficult, and they feel lonely and isolated. But completing treatment is the only way for them to get cured, and for the society to eradicate TB.

 “Treatment helps, and it’s entirely free”

Now Nuraim is full of happiness even when life is harsh. She volunteers at the National Red Crescent Society and participates in TB patient peer-to-peer support groups. “I want to tell patients that treatment helps, and it’s entirely free.”

UNDP's employee conducting chamomile workshop during the UN Day in Bishkek. Chamomile flower is known for being a symbol of fight with tuberculosis. Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan

 “I’m so grateful for the medication and the support I got. Now I want to help too. I wish I had more money to help patients in hospitals.” Even if she herself struggles to make the ends meet and dresses with second-hand donation clothes, Nuraim gives everything she has to charity. If she has two skirts, for example, she gives one out. “TB taught me a lot: to live in hope, to be grateful every morning for waking up, and to help others.”

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