Feature story |

A Teen Battling XDR-TB in Tajikistan Strives For Better Days

Photograph by Wendy Marijnissen
MSF doctor Christoph Höhn examines 16 year-old-Shahnoza in her family home. Shahnoza started MDR-TB treatment in October 2012 but was later diagnosed with XDR-TB. Since January 2013, she is on the right drug regimen, but she will need another 1,5 years of treatment.

About a year ago, Shahmosa (16) couldn’t do more than just lie in bed all day. She was too sick and too weak to do anything else. “A big difference to her current situation," says Shahmosa’s mother. "She’s moving again, laughs, and helps me around the house. We even go out together again. That wasn’t possible before."

In October 2012, Shahmosa was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Further tests proved, however, that she had XDR-TB, a super resistant form of TB. She has been on treatment against XDR-TB since January 2013. Shahmosa sticks to her treatment well, despite the terrible side effects. In her first months of treatment, the drugs made her very nauseous, and she had to vomit often. At that point, she was also getting painful injections in addition to the pills she had to take. She had stop taking the injections when she started suffering from renal failure.

“The worst seems to be behind me,” says Shahmosa. "I just get bad headaches after taking the pills. I also sometimes have trouble breathing. That can take hours. I always feel very unhappy then."

Another consequence of her medication is discolouring of her skin. She was very pale at first, then became reddish and now has very brown skin. Shahmosa feels embarrassed by this, especially since all she wants is to be just a normal girl. She also wants nothing more than to go back to school. In the future, she would love to become a nurse. Her mother, however, is clear. "First, she must be healthy again."

Her treatment will last for another year and half. That is a long time, but Shahmosa knows that if she does not take her medication, she will not get better. Fortunately, she gets support from her family and her friends. She is very grateful for their help. Just as she is very thankful for the support she gets from MSF. "Without them, I’d still be very sick. Or even worse..."


DEMAND CHANGE: People living with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) & their medical care providers are calling on the international community to address the DR-TB crisis with better treatment and diagnosis, and adequate funding. SUPPORT THEIR CALL TO ACTION – SIGN NOW at: www.msfaccess.org/tbmanifesto


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