The Philippines grapples with high tuberculosis (TB) rates, posing a severe public health challenge. With an estimated 554,000 cases in 2019 alone and an incidence rate of 535 cases per 100,000 residents, tuberculosis inflicts irreversible harm and disability on a significant number of Filipinos.
Having tuberculosis-related disabilities in the Philippines has profound implications for individuals’ health, well-being, and socioeconomic status. Common respiratory impairments associated with TB, such as persistent cough, breathlessness, and chest discomfort, restrict an individual’s capacity to work, engage in social activities, and access healthcare.
Those with TB-related disabilities in the Philippines may face social isolation and prejudice in addition to physical difficulties. The stigma associated with tuberculosis can lead to exclusion from social and communal activities, job loss, and housing troubles. This can worsen the cost burden of tuberculosis treatment and lead to poverty.
The following are some accounts from TBpeople Philippines TB survivors who had or have disabilities as a result of their TB treatment, some of whom suffered it during treatment.
DRTB survivor Kristina from the Lung Center of the Philippines faced hurdles as a mother and nurse due to her tuberculosis diagnosis. The 36-year-old underwent a 9-month treatment with side effects that worsened her depression and anxiety.
“Feeling ko ako lang mag-isa. Gusto ko maraming tao, maingay. Kasi pag nag-iisa ako, dun ko naiisip lahat. Nag-overthink ako.”
Lheyna, an accountant and mother of twins, battled DRTB and its consequences. The arduous treatment not only affected her physical well-being but also left her largely deaf, putting her resilience to the test as she navigated her environment with a hearing impairment.
“2015, lahat ng tao sa jeep nakatingin sa’kin bakit ako naka-mask. Very depriving sa sarili ko. Feeling ko sobra na akong nakakahawa at threat na sa kanila.”
Miguel Noel, a father and bank employee, faced life-altering changes when tuberculosis struck. The challenges of DRTB treatment took a toll on his well-being, causing acute depression due to the disease’s impact and the demanding regimen.
“Masyadong traumatic sa’kin yung karanasan. Nagkaroon ako ng takot o anxiety tuwing makikita ko yung mga gamot.”
Ernesto, a 33-year-ol Marketing Assistant, was diagnosed with TB Meningitis, which left him partially blind and with partial amnesia. Despite facing challenges in receiving adequate support, he embarked on a journey of self-rehabilitation and found solace in connecting with visually impaired individuals who had experienced the same condition. Through resilience and determination, he learned to cope with his impairments and regain his independence.
“Sa pagkakaalala ko, nasa bahay lang ako pero nawalan ako ng malay. At pakagising ko at napansin ko na nawala na ang aking paningin. “
Nino, with a cleft palate, struggled with TB due to a lack of self-confidence and an inability to ask crucial questions. Without active drug safety monitoring, his condition worsened to DRTB and caused hearing impairment.
“Kung hindi ko napag aralan yung gamot at yung sakit about sa TB, hindi ko malalaman na nagkaroon pala ako ng pangalawang kapansanan.”
Raymond’s TB treatment in 2007 rendered him medically blind owing to contraindications in his private institution’s treatment plans. He also lost his work after developing peripheral neuropathy while taking TB drugs at the time.
“Nawalan ako noon ng trabaho ng mahigit tatlong taon at nahirapan ako maghanap ng field of work kung saan makakaya ko muling makapag hanapbuhay.”
Throughout the last decade, the Philippines has achieved great progress in tuberculosis control, thanks to increasing expenditure on TB diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. There are, nevertheless, considerable gaps in TB care and assistance for those living with TB-related disabilities.
To improve TB care and support for individuals with TB-related disabilities in the Philippines, the government has implemented laws and initiatives like the Universal Health Care Law and the Philippine Plan of Action to Combat Tuberculosis.
Rehabilitation programs, including pulmonary rehabilitation, play a vital role in managing respiratory problems and enhancing daily functioning.
Community-based rehabilitation programs provide social support, counseling, and vocational training, helping individuals reintegrate into their communities and live independently.
Louie Zepeda Teng, founder and president of TBpeople Philippines, was blinded by TB Meningitis. We are a group of TB survivors working to overcome the socioeconomic and legal challenges that the TB community faces. Our mission is to provide TB Literacy, Peer Support, and CBR Community Rehabilitation
Interventions to treating patients, TB survivors, and the general public, as well as to strictly enforce Adverse Drug Safety Monitoring to avoid disability during treatment, as Ms. Louie experienced.
TB-related disabilities in the Philippines have serious consequences for health and well-being. Access to quality healthcare, rehabilitation programs, and community support is vital to overcoming these challenges and leading fulfilling lives.
This project is supported by TB Alliance and Stop TB Partnership Challenge Facility for Civil Society (CFCS) Round 10.