The Many Faces of Tuberculosis and What To Do About It

When we hear the word “tuberculosis”, we often react aggressively to the point that we inadvertently offend someone. While our health organization gives a few updates, not everyone is aware and knowledgeable about it.

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As Mayo Clinic describes,

Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease mainly affecting the lungs. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.

What are the symptoms of Tuberculosis? Here are some of the early signs, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • Coughing for three or more weeks
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite

In an effort to raise awareness of Tuberculosis (TB) and that it can be cured, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through its TB Innovations and Health Systems Strengthening (USAID’s TBIHSS) Project has come out with stories of hope revival and healing for individuals facing the condition.

USAID’s TBIHSS is a five-year project designed to bring a dynamic and strategic approach to accelerate the fight against TB in the Philippines.

Dubbed “Kineri Ko To”, the campaign features online episodes that tell the story of three individuals – Mark Agana, Nino Magpusao, and Louie Teng – and their many battles against Tuberculosis and how they overcame it.  

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Photo by: Family Health International

“My TB recurred.”

Mark Agana was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis (PTB) in 2014. He, however, didn’t comply with the TB treatment, resulting in TB’s reactivation in 2016. It was then that he started again his treatment for extrapulmonary TB at a government TB clinic (TB DOTS at CHO Koronadal), religiously taking his TB meds daily. He also focused on getting better and stronger by eating healthy foods, more fruits, getting enough sleep at six to eight hours a day, and drinking a lot of water. Today, Mark is back on track. He has since regained his strength, gained mass, and lived a healthy lifestyle. “I have also been doing the rounds, speaking in radio stations based in Mindanao as a TB survivor advocate,” he said. “I also use social media platforms to communicate about TB prevention and care. I learned that everyone is vulnerable to acquiring TB when exposed to the bacteria. Even athletic and healthy people like I was back then can get infected,” he added.

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Photo by: Family Health International

“I faced discrimination from my relatives.”

Like Mark, Nino Magpusao stopped his medications when he felt better. Unfortunately, all the symptoms he had came back – cough, fever, nausea – and he returned to the health center once more. While under treatment, he faced one of the most gruelling challenges of his life when he heard one of his relatives mention that his condition was contagious and that everyone should stay away from him.  In spite of what he heard, he continued with his treatment and finished in 22 months. Today, he is a survivor advocate with TB People Philippines.

“I talk with people who have the same condition and listen to their concerns, questions, and even problems so that we would know how to help them,” he said. “I myself went through them as well, so I think it’s fitting that someone who has experienced the same should be able to reach out to these people. Because I believe that ‘bawat kwento ay may kwenta’.” (I believe that every story is relevant and important.) 

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Photo by: Family Health International

“Doctors told me that my case would only last two weeks.”

She had no cough, but she went through a series of conditions, including discrimination from relatives and mental health issues. “When I was diagnosed, one of my doctors told me that my case was good for two weeks,” said TB People Philippines Founder Louie Teng. “So we really prayed hard because I wanted to live.”

Her treatment lasted for months, and she was eventually cured. Now with TB People Philippines, which was 15 years in the making, she reaches out to people with the same condition and their families to not just break the stigma of this condition but to offer support and encouragement.  “The idea that I am changing lives and not just designing structures completes my day,” she said. “I realize that this is what God wants me to do. I really had to go through this side of the world where it was dark, but I now know I have more purpose, and that’s the way we should look at any of these challenges.” 

It’s all about education 

Health isn’t valued until sickness comes. Diseases like TB are preventable and curable, so if you can and if you have the means to do it, do not overlook symptoms and self-medicate. Try to educate yourself by reading facts and other medical reviews about it online.

These online episodes can be viewed on the Facebook Page of TB Free PH. For more information about TB, visit healthylungs. ph. This includes an online self-assessment tool to help with TB identification and treatment. It may also be used to check for suspected TB and locate the nearest health facility. #ParaHealthyLungsKonstulTayo

The healthylungs.ph is part of the Department of Health (DOH)’s local communication campaign, Para Healthy Lungs, KonsulTayo, which is supported by USAID’s TB Innovations and Health Systems Project (TBIHSS). It aims to raise tuberculosis as a public health priority in the country using social and conventional media methods.