Amila Sharma is a social mobilizer for the National TB program at the Budh Nagar Health Post in the Jahada Rural Municipality near the Indian border. Sharma is a qualified Community Medicine Assistant. She was selected as a Contact Tracer and Courier for the TB program for being dedicated and knowledgeable about health and the local area.
She would visit patient’s homes with a collection container to get sputum samples. However, overcome reluctance from the patients she often had to make multiple visits to the same house. She frequently provides individual support to help patients successfully complete the long treatment by visiting their homes and observing the challenges they face. Patients are only given a one month supply of medication, so she also phones patients if they haven’t visited the health facility recently. Sharma believes this reluctance was due to a lack of education about TB: many assumed that haemoptysis (coughing up blood) was the only symptom, as well as if tests done previously by people known to them had negative results for TB; they assumed they did not have TB either. However, Sharma continued to counsel them to convince them to give samples for TB screening.
Community members have often shown little to no respect for the importance of her job, dismissing the hard work she puts in to ensure the treatment of patients. A large stigma still exists towards the disease. Sharma expressed, “I request them to stop having negative thoughts. It is like any other disease: it will be cured by timely treatment and medication. It is contagious by droplet infection: people need to be aware and those with immature immune systems are more likely to contract it. I demonstrate examples of local people who take the medicine and are completely cured.” Sharma cannot stress enough how vital creating awareness on TB is in Nepali communities for many are not aware of its consequences.
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