Tamaryn encourages others to speak up about their stories and raise awareness around the disease.
Why have you decided to get involved with campaigning about TB awareness in your official year of reign?
I am a TB survivor and believe the Miss SA platform is a brilliant one to raise awareness around the disease. TB is currently one of the most relevant and pressing global issues we face. As Miss South Africa speaking up about my experience, I contribute to breaking the stigma, that only certain people contract TB. For three years I feared speaking up about my experience. The Miss SA platform gave me the confidence to do so. I hope to encourage others to speak up about their stories.
What was your own experience of TB? How did it affect you both emotionally and physically?
I contracted TB in 2015 as a third year medical student. I managed to complete my six-month treatment, but it was no walk in the park. It was a tough and traumatising period in my life, for my family and for me.
From taking medication every day to developing drug-induced hepatitis as result of that medication it was not easy. The hepatitis lead to symptoms of daily nausea, weakness and even delirium at times. The fear of isolation and discrimination as result of the stigma was emotionally and mentally taxing. The trauma of it all stuck with me for three years after being cured, even though I thought I’d dealt with it all.
There is still a lot of stigma and discrimination surrounding TB. What problems can this cause with regards diagnosis and treatment?
Stigma can cause a delay in patients seeking diagnosis or discontinuation of their treatment. The fear of family and friends finding out often leads to missing clinical appointments or not administering the medication.
What can be done to effectively tackle the stigma surrounding TB?
People must be better educated about tuberculosis. The misconceptions and myths must be broken. With better understanding comes more acceptance. More survivors and those affected by the illness should be encouraged to share their stories.
Generally, do people understand enough about this disease? Or are there still misconceptions about it?
No, they do not understand enough. There are still many misconceptions around tuberculosis. The only way to eradicate it is through health education and awareness.
This is still a disease that kills millions. What needs to change to improve the outlook for TB patients?
- Better education
- More thorough research on the epidemiology of tuberculosis and the factors that act as barriers to easier diagnosis and treatment
- Multisectoral commitment to tackle the issue
- Producing better medications with fewer side effects
How big is the threat of extensively drug-resistant TB?
The numbers cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis(MDR) TB are rising. One of the biggest problems is that the medication to treat MDR TB requires a longer duration of treatment with more side effects. This is a huge barrier and often leads to poor adherence from patients.
What advice would you have for anyone who is concerned that they may have TB?
Go get tested as soon as possible. Almost all clinics and hospitals are equipped to do TB testing and it won’t cost a thing.