Partner: Savera

CAT_3593 Savera Komba -mkikuta voluntary s

Partner: Savera

Savera survived TB twice and joined a volunteer organisation to spread awareness about the disease.

“Six months ago I fell ill with tuberculosis (TB) but I was unable to get treatment for three months, by which time I was very sick indeed. I had had a number of tests for TB but all were negative. However I knew it was TB because four years ago I also had it. That’s the thing with TB, even if you get it once and get better, you can still catch it again. TB is very contagious. I have no idea who gave it to me but I travel often on a combi (small public bus) where we are packed together for an hour or so. Often other people on the bus are coughing and sneezing. Perhaps they have colds. Perhaps they have something more serious. But TB is spread through coughing and I breathe that same air for an hour…

I am also a volunteer for MUKIKUTE. We work with APOPO and help communities understand TB. Stigma is borne through a lack of education. Often people who have TB also have HIV and that’s what others are really scared of. They think being in the same room, or shaking their hand will give them HIV. MUKIKUTE volunteers have all had TB at one time and we are living proof that if you get tested and start treatment as soon as possible, you will survive. TB is curable, no one should die! The problem is that often the clinics are not well staffed or they use out of date equipment. This is the tragedy because people get to clinic only to be given an inaccurate diagnosis.

The world has to wake up to TB and start addressing it properly. But it’s interesting when I tell people what I do. They think my job is very dangerous. Often, in private, women come back to me to ask for advice because they suspect someone in their family is sick but they won’t go to a doctor because of stigma.

When I was sick for the second time it was more serious than the first time and I became very scared for myself and for my son. Who would look after him if I died? He is eighteen years old but he has not been able to find a job and I support him through selling clothes and snacks on the street. After a while I became too sick to leave my bed and that’s when we got scared. Not just that I would die, but because no money came in.

But my sample had been sent to APOPO who use rats that can smell TB. They found it in my sputum and APOPO confirmed TB using advanced equipment. When I first heard about this I couldn’t believe that rats were involved. It’s like going to a witchdoctor!

Needless to say, I am thrilled that I am still here. Able to provide for my family and help other families like mine. Unfortunately, in my experience women often face greater stigma and discrimination due to TB than men. We must continue to engage women in affected communities and break the TB stigma through education.”

Savera survived TB twice and joined a volunteer organisation to spread awareness about the disease.

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