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TB in Ukraine: "My treatment is going well"

Initially doctors thought Sergey had the flu, but after a month, it became clear that something else was going on. He shares his story of drug-resistant tuberculosis...

TB patient Sergey is treated by MSF in Ukraine

When I felt sick at the end of last year I was initially treated for flu. After almost a month of fever, a doctor suspected I could have tuberculosis (TB).

I was referred to Zhytomyr Regional TB Dispensary and I started treatment there in January. I was discharged two months later, a few days before the COVID-19 lockdown started in Ukraine.

My family always supported me, as did the company I work for as a road builder. I’m on sick leave and I intend to go back to work as soon as I recover.

I first heard about the new coronavirus when I was still working. It was an issue only in China. When Ukraine registered its first COVID-19 case, my only concern was that my family wouldn’t get infected. My wife, my two daughters and I are at home and we take care of hygiene in the house to avoid contamination.

The psychologist told me I’m facing TB in a very positive way and it helps in the outcomes

We live in Malyn, which is a village in the countryside. We have a lot of fresh air here. We are growing vegetables and green salad and there is no need to go to the city. I go to the TB health facility here once a week just to pick up my medicines.

My treatment is going well. The psychologist told me I’m facing TB in a very positive way and it helps in the outcomes. I still have some limitations when doing activities at home because I feel a bit of pain in my lung, but I’m ok. I have plenty of rabbits and I care for them. If there was no lockdown, I think I would be more active.

I have a well-established relationship with the medical workers. They call me regularly to ask how I feel and check what I need. I also keep in contact with a friend I made in the TB hospital. We provide moral support to each other to overcome the disease.

Médecins Sans Frontières works in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and Zhytomyr Regional TB Dispensary to provide effective treatment for people suffering from drug-resistant TB. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need to adapt our approach. Instead of having all the medication at the dispensary, drugs are now delivered to local facilities, and mental health support has been provided mainly via phone. We have expanded awareness-raising activities for all our patients and staff, providing them with information on how to prevent the virus, and we increased infection control measures for our teams and in the TB hospital. The TB programme has kept on enrolling on average four patients per week, exactly as before the pandemic.

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