Community volunteers making a difference in addressing TB and HIV

Lwin Lwin Thant, Myanmar
Had it not been for community volunteers, a person co-infected with TB and HIV would not have been able to get proper care in Myanmar. When the thin and faded seventy years old mother asked, "Mg Swe…..How are you feeling today?". Mg Swe, lying in bed and writhing with pain, answered "I am alright, A May (Mum)." Mg Swe is a 46 years old, single man who has only one leg. He joined the army in 1985 out of despondency due to his parents’ divorce. Four years later, when there was the sea-island battle with Kayin People in Tanitaryee Division, he lost his left leg in that war.

Then he went back to his village to live with his mother. The mother took care of her disabled son by spinning cotton, running errands for the cotton factory owner, and bringing from his house food leftovers for her son to eat.

In 2012, Mg Swe started suffering from fever, diarrhoea and severe pain in the body. He lost weight as well as his appetite. Although he took traditional medicines, his condition worsened. When this news reached Ms Khin Ohn Yee, a volunteer of PICTS (Programme to Increase Catchment of Tuberculosis Suspects) Programme run by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), she came to his help. She got his sputum collected and tested. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB). He also tested positive for HIV and had an enlarged liver due to his long history of taking alcohol.

Mg Swe lacks in financial resources and is also too weak to go to the healthcare service provider by himself. But with the help of the volunteers and staff from the PICTS Programme, he is taken to hospital and has got the much needed medical assistance and care. Despite continuous unbearable pain, he is now determined to defeat the diseases because of the loving care of his beloved mother. “That is why a mother is the dearest one on earth” said Mg Swe.

Community support is central in making early, accurate and confirmed TB diagnosis, successful completion of standard treatment and care a reality for those in need.

Lwin Lwin Thant, Myanmar
November 2013