The Global Fund saved my life
March 22nd, 2019
Nine years ago, at age 20, I was suffering from a cough and weakness in my body. I didn’t know what was wrong. I later learned I had become sick with a deadly disease called tuberculosis (TB).
I was home in Afghanistan, and went to the public hospital for a checkup. The TB section of that hospital was very small and not well equipped. It didn’t seem safe or hygienic. In fact, they told me to go to a public clinic to get an x-ray – the hospital wouldn’t do it. I was told at the clinic that I did not have TB. I was in pain, but I thought, “Okay, I’ll leave it alone.”
A few weeks later, I was sitting at home and coughing when I saw blood coming out of my mouth. I started crying. I wondered, “Am I dying? What is this?”
My mother had already lost a sister to TB when she was 40, and she knew immediately what was happening. She told me not to worry, and took me to a private clinic. They did a TB test, and confirmed that I had tuberculosis.
I received medicine from the private clinic, but it was too expensive. After three months, I couldn’t afford it any longer. My mother heard about another clinic where we might be able to get medicine for free. Because of the stigma around TB infection, I didn’t want to go to the clinic by myself, and they would not allow my mother to get the medicine for me. I had a lot of fear about what society would think about me as a young girl with TB. Would people be afraid of me? I didn’t want to leave the house.
One day, I summoned up the courage to go to the new clinic for a check up and to ask for medicine. The staff confirmed that I had TB, and told me they would provide medicine for free. I was so happy!
I continued using TB medicine for nine months, and finally I survived. During the treatment I was at home and in bed, taken care of only by my parents. I remember every morning they gave me my medicine. I was afraid that if I missed taking a dosage, the bacteria would become drug-resistant. I am thankful that my parents knew how dangerous TB could be, and motivated me to keep up with my treatment.
I just learned from a friend who works in public health in Afghanistan that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria supports TB cure centers like the one I used. The Global Fund is a partnership that invests nearly $4 billion a year in health programs in communities in need, like mine. To date, the partnership has saved more than 27 million lives. I realized that I too survived because of the Global Fund.
I’m very passionate about sharing the story about my illness, and how the Global Fund saved my life. Now I go to Capitol Hill and talk with my representatives about TB. I speak up, because this is an issue that hasn’t just affected me – it affects millions of other people around the world. I’m telling my story not only for me, as an Afghan. This is an issue for all. This is about humanity.
I ask you to join me in urging Congress and the administration to continue the United States’ strong support for the Global Fund. Later this fall, when world leaders gather to share their commitments, the U.S. must come to the table with at least $4.68 billion, one third of the total needed. Take action today – meet with your representatives, write a letter to the editor, and tell them why they must step up the fight. Lives are at stake.