March 24, 2022 05:45 PM NPT
By: Puja Giri
KATHMANDU, March 24: Twenty-five years old Binika Shrestha of Khope Galli-4, Hetauda, was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) when she was just 18. She had to leave her study as it was quite late when the disease was diagnosed. She had to suffer a lot of mental and physical hardships and pain at a young age.
Shrestha said, “My heart still feels that pain when I remember all the hardships of the past.” She suffered so much that the suffering ultimately made her a TB control and diagnostic activist. She is currently conducting awareness programs among the youth about the disease as well as accompanying the patients in their sorrows and joys. She said that she was working in the field of activism day and night so that other patients do not have to suffer like she had to.
Binika has been working in the field of activism for two years. She had just taken admission for her bachelor’s when she was diagnosed with TB. She was enrolled in Nobel College to study public health, but within a few months of starting college, she began to suffer from chest pains.
“I just took usual medicines thinking it was due to a cold, however in the evening, there were symptoms like high fever and sweating. Nobody thought it could be TB at that time. Instead, we thought it was gastritis,” she said, recalling the past. “While examining for gastritis, I had an X-ray. Then, I found out that water had accumulated in my right lung. I came to Kathmandu and had surgery to remove the water from my lung. Following the doctor's advice, I conducted a Mantoux test and immediately started medication.”
Shrestha said that after taking the medicine, her face, throat and stomach started to swell, however after one month, the problems started to subside. “My family didn’t allow me to come to Kathmandu from Hetauda as I had to stay in a hostel. Due to the medications, the problem of joint pain started again. Therefore, I had to quit my study. However, my father encouraged me and I started studying again.”
Binika has already completed her bachelor’s degree. Coincidentally, she got a job as a district program officer at an organization working against tuberculosis. “My experience has made it easier for me to work in this field. I am working to protect others from TB as well as informing them about the disease,” she said.
Shrestha is also a member of the National Youth Campaign against Tuberculosis (NIMAT). "My family and friends helped me a lot and I was able to fight the disease. However, many people still hesitate to admit that they have TB with the fear of being casted out by relatives and neighbors.” she said. According to her, there has been a lot of improvement in this area, however, the coordination between government and non-government organizations is still needed in the prevention and eradication of the taboo related to tuberculosis.
Similarly Bibek Khyaju, 23, of Bhaktapur Municipality Ward 4, who contracted tuberculosis at the age of 18, is also working as an activist with the goal of protecting the younger generation from this disease.
“It is necessary to bring effective programs to create awareness among the common people. As it is a contagious disease, there is a need for widespread public awareness. When a family relocates, the rules for showing TB screening should also be enforced,” he said.
Likewise, Diksha Sharma, a 24-year-old public health student, has been working as the vice-chairperson of the campaign for the past one year. "Tuberculosis is one of the oldest diseases in the world, and many people are still forced to lose their lives despite the fact that the disease can be treated and cured," she said. I am involved in this campaign because I think more young people should work on it.”
"The government has a lot to do, especially in finding and treating patients who have not been diagnosed and treated, and in eradicating superstitions in the community," she said.
As the government alone is unlikely to achieve the goal of eradicating tuberculosis in Nepal by 2035, these young people have suggested the government coordinate with the youth. Since 2019, the World Health Organization has been conducting various youth oriented programs under the TB program based on the same agenda. Under this campaign, school health programs, community based public awareness programs, advocacy programs youth capacity and leadership development programs are conducted across the country.