According to World Health Organization (WHO), “TB is nevertheless a leading infectious cause of death among women and about 700 000 women die of TB annually around the world.”

Why does it happen? What are the factors that make women die of TB?

Cultural and financial barriers can act as major obstacles for women seeking care resulting in delayed presentation and more severe illness. People with chronic, infectious diseases such as TB and HIV are generally stigmatized and avoided. Women suffer more stigma and discrimination than men. Stigma and discrimination make women reluctant to seek care for TB until the disease is advanced.

Saroja* is suffering from MDR TB today, backed up with her long story of malady unfavorably on her. Her initial treatment for TB was irregular due to constant family problems with her husband. TB was one of the main issues that made her husband to desert her and leave her utterly alone. She found it difficult to think about her illness and had to make several adjustments for herself and her children. She lost both the moral and financial support from her life partner. As per our cultural norms, a married woman’s life in society is marked by her marital status and if the husband deserts her, she becomes the ridicule of her family as well as the society.  The social and financial stress forced her often to discontinue her treatment and she gradually ended up by developing drug resistant TB.

Savithiri*is an XDR TB patient, Being a spinster, she was taken care by her brother when she had undergone treatment for MDR TB. Her treatment got interrupted due to the sudden demise of her brother. She was totally isolated by her sisters who refused to provide her a nutritious diet. They just believed that their brother expired because he attended to her specially. The loss of economic security was of larger concern for having sick sister in the family. Family bonds can suffer when someone has TB and sometimes family members can be heartless in their actions. At present the patient is admitted in a tertiary hospital for her XDR treatment.

How can these women cope up to the rigors of TB treatment? With Absolutely no care from their loved ones, they are dependent on the care from the health system that is already heavily burdened.

Treatment for TB is not only lies in the qualitative, timely medical care, but also with the societal care of patients beyond any discrimination. Society must inculcate in people that they do not abandon their family member when they have TB, but try to adhere to the doctor’s advice and provide care. Psychological support cannot be provided with medicines alone, but with tender loving care, from the family members. Quality treatment and loving care are both necessary for patients with TB.

These patients were identified by pharmacists and have been directed to proper care services of the government. They are under regular follow up of the field officers. We hope the best treatment outcomes in spite of their life situations and hope that their families provide them the love and care they need.

*name changed to protect the identity

— shared by our Pharmacy Initiative Team.

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