Fear of being diagnosed with Covid-19 delays access to TB treatment

A 26-year-old mother of one, Mrs Grace Nzili, endured coughing and night sweat for months but could not dare go to the hospital because she feared she would be tested for Covid-19, and if found positive quarantined for several weeks, leaving her one-year-old daughter alone. 

Grace, who ran a fruits and vegetable kiosk in her neighbourhood, became too ill and had to close her business, hence loss of income to the family.

Her husband would buy her medicine from chemists but the cough would not go away. With her condition getting worse, her husband decided to go to Ankara Clinic. This is one of the Amref Global Fund-supported public-private mix sites managed by Amref in Garissa County. The doctor gave him a falcon tube to collect her sputum. It turned out positive for TB and treatment began.

“Upon realising it was TB, my heart was broken at first because I thought that being diagnosed with TB meant that I automatically had Aids,” Grace says.

 Counselling by a nurse at the TB Clinic and Garissa Referral Hospital made her understand that it did not necessarily mean one has Aids.

 It’s this advice that gave her and her husband the strength to get tested for Aids. The test came back negative and they were both relieved.    

Grace recalls that she was advised that missing even one dose of her medicine could prevent her from recovering fully. She decided to take her medicine as instructed by the doctor. Even though the treatment was hard at first, she stuck to it and was able to fully recover.

“It took six months to complete my treatment,” Grace recalls. Her treatment was made easier by support from my husband, especially for the first two months when she was instructed to relax, eat fruits and drink porridge. 

“He took it upon himself to bring me fruits and cook the porridge for me every day so that I could relax. This really helped and I was able to regain my strength,” she adds.

Her husband, Mr Jonah Nzili, said: “I realised that I had to be there with my wife to help her get through her treatment and my main responsibility was to make sure she took her medicine regularly.”

Grace vividly remembers the day she went to the hospital to get tested and found out that she no longer had TB. With her husband, she rejoiced upon receiving the negative test results. 

Through her fight against TB, the biggest lesson she learnt was that the key to her recovery was facing her fear and going to the hospital to get tested and follow the doctor’s instructions.  

When we caught up with Grace, she was planning to reopen her business. 

“I’m looking forward to restocking my kiosk once I get some money,” said a beaming Grace.