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TB&Me: Tackling TB together

Polina, 28, and Andrey, 30, had drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB). Together, the young couple from Belarus are taking part in TB PRACTECAL, a cutting-edge project that aims to find better treatments for the disease. Polina shares their story... 

Polina and Andrey have been treated by MSF for TB in Belarus

Joining the trial was a difficult decision for us. We asked our families for advice, but their conflicting opinions were not much help.

They were worried that a six-month treatment regimen would prove too good to be true and would not be enough for us to be cured.

Even my boyfriend said: “The only free cheese is in the mousetrap. And even then, it’s the second mouse that gets it.”

But in the end, we decided to go for it.

Starting treatment

For Andrey, the migraines he had experienced before starting treatment intensified and I suffered continuous nausea.

If it weren’t for antiemetic drugs to ease the nausea, I feared I might not have made it through the treatment.

However, we completed our treatment and our follow-up period started in February 2019. 

This experience has changed our outlook on life

In the hospital, I met many women who had developed TB after giving birth.

Andrey and I plan to start a family, so, for me, taking part in the trial has been an investment in our own future.

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Polina and Andrey completed a six-month treatment regimen under the TB PRACTECAL clinical trial in Minsk, Belarus
Polina and Andrey completed a six-month treatment regimen under the TB PRACTECAL clinical trial in Minsk, Belarus

I worry that relapse is a looming possibility, so if our trial helps to develop shorter treatment courses, that would be really great.

I feel weird saying this, but I would feel safer knowing that there is a shorter regimen without painful injections in case something happens in the future and I have to take treatment again. 

A new perspective

This experience has changed our outlook on life. 

I am definitely more sensible – some of my colleagues say I’m a different person now.

We both quit smoking and Andrey is thinking of changing his occupation. He works in a car painting workshop, which is not good for his lungs.

We have started appreciating what we have more. If something’s going wrong, we think “it doesn’t matter, at least we are healthy”.