As someone who repaired dysfunctional sound systems, 25-year-old Sarfaraz* has worked with speakers and amplifiers for as long as he can remember. Today, as we enter his two-room house through one of the ubiquitous narrow by-lanes of Shahdara district of the Indian national capital, the usual din of the tumultuous street subsides and the silence turns deafening.
“It is the medications. As a side-effect, my hearing ability is now seriously impaired. At times I lose all sense of time and space,” says Sarfaraz, through the handkerchief mask, sitting in his dimly lit room.
Sarfaraz was diagnosed with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) around six months back; precisely six months after it was confirmed that his elder brother was cured of the same affliction.
For most MDR-TB patients, lack of access to medical support – owing to physical weakness and subsequent inability to travel to clinics – is only the beginning of the problem. The harrowing side-effects of the medications include nausea, body aches, sleeplessness, hearing loss and, at times, psychosis.
“I’m very thankful to Naushad bhai who visits us almost every day to check up on me. Without his support, I would have definitely lost my mental balance by now,” says Sarfaraz.
Naushad is an Axshya Mitra in one of the 21 kiosks under The Union’s Axshya project being implemented by Humana People to People India in nine districts of Delhi. As an Axshya Mitra, Naushad provides regular medicines to the patients visiting the kiosk and, more importantly, provides much-needed counselling to MDR-TB patients, where prolonged treatment can result in severe mental agony.
“While regular intake of medicines is crucial, most patients drop out due to the sheer desolation that follows the two-year treatment. They are mostly limited to the four walls of their house and the limited social interaction slowly begins to take toll on their mental well-being. In such cases, a counsellor is indispensable,” says Naushad.
Starting in March 2016, the Axshya Project being implemented by HPPI in the nine districts of Delhi aims to cover 700,000 households by the end of this year through its door-to-door campaign of patient identification and information dissemination.
“It was due to Naushad bhai’s intervention that all the members of my family have now undergone a thorough sputum analysis to check for infection spread. Thankfully, all the results came out negative,” says Sarfaraz.
For many MDR-TB patients like Sarfaraz, the Axshya Project has come as a much-needed blessing at a very crucial time. The valuable human touch of Axshya Mitras through counselling ensures that the tough 24-months period of medication becomes bearable and that the recovery is expeditious.