When Yasova Olguldondy was first diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), she felt so ashamed she couldn’t even tell her son. “I thought he would get angry and frustrated if he knew the truth,” she says. “I didn’t tell anyone.”
Yasova, 63, from Dashoguz in northern Turkmenistan, discovered she had TB in 2009. “When the doctor told me, all I wanted to do was cry. But I was too ashamed to cry in front of him,” she says.
In Dashoguz, sufferers can become social outcasts. Despite a high incidence rate of TB, there is little public information about the disease and how to prevent new infections.
“People with TB are told to stay away,” Yasova says. “When I told my neighbours that I had TB, they didn’t believe me because I didn’t look like their conception of a TB patient.”
Physical and mental well-being
After two months in hospital, Yasova went to a TB clinic for four months where she received support and food parcels from the Turkmenistan Red Crescent. The Red Crescent’s programme in Turkmenistan is funded by AstraZeneca via the British Red Cross, and has been running for over a decade in three different locations: Ashgabat, Mary and Dashoguz.
“When I went to the Red Crescent, the nurse always greeted me with a smile and lifted my spirits. Sometimes she would even spend a whole hour talking to me. Even now when I’m better she still asks me to come by and see her. Without this support, it would have been terrible.”
Yasova began volunteering for the Red Crescent in June 2010. “I go to the clinic and explain to patients how their treatment works, take part in psychological support sessions, and make home visits to those who are too ill to come in.
“When I tell them about my own experiences of the disease, it encourages them to open up and talk about how they are feeling. I tell them not to stop their treatment and that they should be inspired by my recovery to keep going with the treatment no matter what.”
“When I sit around with my neighbours in the evening I tell them all about TB. Now I have more confidence to talk about TB.”
Find out about TB in Turkmenistan