Faces of TB

Tuberculosis, also known as consumption, sound like a disease from an earlier century. However, annually approximately 1.5 million people come down with tuberculosis, which is still the most commonly, curable, but also deadliest infectious disease of the world. Notably, tuberculosis is a major issue in developing countries as well as poor emerging countries, but increasing globalization and the associated growing number of travelers led to dissemination of the disease. Whereas in developed countries the cure of the disease is easily affordable and sometimes backed by social protection systems. In contrast, in Vietnam tuberculosis is called “disease of poverty”. Thousands of people die because of tuberculosis every year because patients cannot afford proper treatment.

“Faces of Tuberculosis” is a new series, showing the life of tuberculosis patients in Vietnam. Every month we will present the life and suffering of one of our patients, their hopes, future plans but also difficulties in dealing with this illness as well as fears. We are deeply grateful that our patients are willing and courageous to share their stories with us. Nevertheless, they pertain to only a few infected persons, who have the opportunity to get treatment – our organization want to change this and strives every day for discovery and treatment of tuberculosis!


I thought that I lost everything on the day I was diagnosed with Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis at the beginning of this year. As the man of the house, I was used to be responsible for for my family. However, because my health was not good enough, I had to quit my job. Also, I wanted to withdraw the therapy, when my condition became worse at the first months of treatment. I lost  my appetite, suffered from vomit and being drowsy as well as loss of vision. My wife had to stop working to take care of me as well. I felt useless and miserable since I had the disease. Our marriage was about to end because of the financial burden and my bad mood during the therapy.

Fortunately, we had Ms. Hue, the counselor from PROPER CARE. She was always by our sides from the first day of my treatment. She inspires me of a future life free of tuberculosis, if I do my best to continue my therapy. Our marriage is also healed thanks to her counselling. After 8-month following treatment, my condition is getting better and the side effects of drugs abate. Now, I gained 20 kilograms weight compared to the time I started my therapy. This gives my family a hope, but also persuades the surrounding people with the stigma of tuberculosis to change their minds – tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease.

As any patient with multi drug-resistant tuberculosis, I just desire a full recovery after finishing my treatment. With my experiences obtained during my treatment for tuberculosis, I hope to contribute with my endeavors to help other patients like me. I believe that, where there is a will there is a way!

Interview conducted on 22.11.2016, names have been changed.


I have been coughing up sputum for 2 years, but I hesitated to visit a doctor because I did not want to become a family burden. Not until I lost weight rapid in recent months (i.e., 40 kilograms down to 26 kilograms) and felt breathlessness, my son took me to the local hospital. Doctors here transferred me to District Tuberculosis Unit (DTU) based upon their possible suspects of tuberculosis. The health officer at DTU asked me to perform a plain chest X-ray and two sputum samples for confirmation. I started receiving treatment for tuberculosis a week ago. I don’t feel comfortable to take these drugs: I suffer from vomiting as well as loss of vision and speech.

I am living with 5 offsprings in a rented house. I don’t have my own room, so I often wear a mask to prevent my family from disease transmission. Since the day I was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a counselor from PROPER CARE program usually visits my house to advise me not to get rid of my therapy and to encourage my family members to go screening for tuberculosis.

My current health doesn’t allow me to go out, so nobody know my condition. However, my family members as well do not want to mention my disease to anyone because they scare a potential discrimination in our neighborhood.

With my age, 82 years old, I just wish to recover as soon as possible. This disease makes me lie in bed all day, which is very uncomfortable for me.

Interview conducted on 22.11.2016, names have been changed.


Report1This is the second time I have been treated for tuberculosis. Compared to the previous one, the symptoms at this time were not obvious, which were cough and back pain. I visited many doctors in the local clinics, but their therapy didn’t help to ameliorate my pain. I found a tumor located in the back a few weeks later and it became bigger and bigger day by day. I didn’t think that I would had a relapse of tuberculosis until I went to visit a doctor at Pham Ngoc Thach Lung Hospital. My current condition accompanied by  a relapse pulmonary tuberculosis with the spinal tuberculosis. Now I am receiving treatment for Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR). I suffer from the side effects of the drugs: nausea, skin lesions, and hearing loss at the time I take medicine. That is why medicine has become an obsession for me. I also feel breathless and fatigue by a little physical exertion. I quit my job as a security guard since I had a relapse of tuberculosis because I don’t feel well enough to do anything. I am just sitting around in my room due to my physical weakness, which is another reason why I am discriminated from surrounding people. Only persons without knowing my condition talk to me while some others, even my family members, are afraid of touching and talking to me. They are afraid of disease transmission. This is the reason I isolate myself and don’t want to talk to anyone.

The worst thing is that my wife is receiving treatment for MDR-TB as well. Her condition is worse than mine. We are living on the deepest sympathy from our family members, catholic charities and PROPER CARE program. Not only financial support, they help build spiritual strength to overcome these difficulties we are facing. I have two children: my little son is looked after by my parents, and my daughter who is staying with us goes to school without any strings attached. I am grateful for their consideration.

What I wish for the future? I hope my wife and me to get a full recovery after our therapy, which is my desire more than anything. I plan to look for a job after my successfully treatment to support my family in the future. Also, I wish to be able to save money for a surgery to remove the tumor in my back.

Interview conducted on 22.11.2016, names have been changed.