Meet Faith and Rosalie - Speaking Up This World TB Day

March 22, 2012
by Crickett Nicovich, Outreach and Advocacy Associate

Faith was only 5 years old when she was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis for the first time (that’s TB of the lungs). At the age of 5, she took six months of antibiotics prescribed by a private physician in the Philippines. Faith was really young so she doesn’t remember that much, but her mom Rosalie says even after completing the round of treatment her daughter never fully recovered. She was “really skinny” and “always sick” throughout her childhood. Rosalie said that they would go to the doctor 5 times in a six month time period.

After Faith and her parents moved to Texas in 2005, she continued to express these symptoms. Finally, the doctors tested her again for TB when she was 12 year old and she tested positive. This time it was different. It had spread to her lymph nodes. Faith’s lymph nodes were swollen like oranges on her neck and when the doctors biopsied them, they discovered the TB bacteria. Doctors said it was highly likely that she was not treated properly for TB the first time around, and that the TB had morphed into this new form.

At first, her family was scared to talk about it. They didn’t want others at her school to know that she had TB because they were afraid of the stigma. Because Faith was not contagious, she didn’t pose a public health risk, but in their community, few people know about the different kinds of TB and it’s hard to talk about health issues.

But now, Rosalie and Faith are speaking out. They’ve teamed up with Dr. Jeffrey Starke (who helped to inform ACTION’s Children and TB brief) and RESULTS to participate in a panel called “Voices of TB” that USAID is sponsoring March 22 at the National Press Club in honor of World TB Day this March 24.  There will be voices of TB patients from Vietnam, Nigeria, and Kenya, as well.Rosalie and her daughter Faith, who had TB.

Faith’s treatment was not easy. TB itself was draining and always made her feel tired and run down. The TB drugs are a shock to a body and there were more drugs to treat her symptoms including steroids that made her face swell. The steroids themselves were the worst. Faith said the emotional swings they caused were almost unbearable. She had to take up to 14 pills a day. In the end, she’s a survivor thanks to the great healthcare she received here in the U.S. Rosalie is thankful because this kind of care would have been very difficult to get in the Phillipines.

RESULTS wants to give a big thanks to Rosalie and Faith and the other participants in World TB Day events here in DC for sharing their stories and for advocating for those who don’t have access to the same treatment around the world. Patient activist voices are powerful and can really push policy makers into action to fund domestic and bi-lateral TB control programs, TB-HIV funding, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. If you know anyone who has or has had TB, talk to them about speaking out on the issue. The more voices, the more powerful we are as advocates.

Rosalie and Faith are being heard in DC this week, and their efforts combined with other activists like RESULTS grassroots and our international partners are all necessary to fight and end this disease!  

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