Myint Thien: Cured TB patient dedicated to volunteer support network

Myint Thien: Cured TB patient dedicated to volunteer support network

The Union’s Programme to Increase Catchment of Tuberculosis Suspects (PICTS) implements active case-finding activities in 15 townships in Myanmar through an extensive volunteer network. Volunteers conduct door-to-door health education, TB contact tracing and facilitate sputum transport between patients’ homes and clinics.

The Union relies on community members, advocates and TB survivors to support these outreach activities. Myint Thein, a 47-year-old cured TB patient, came to support these efforts through his own first-hand experience with TB and the stigma that comes with it.

He became very ill in 2007, suffering from severe abdominal pain, a persistent cough and weight loss. It took a month for doctors to diagnose him with extra-pulmonary TB. He was hospitalised and soon after he received news that he was HIV-positive.

“It was a difficult time – I was completely hopeless and even attempted suicide twice. Luckily, I made it through”, he says. “After only a few months on treatment I was feeling so much healthier and I began to regain a positive outlook.”

He joined PICTS’ volunteer network for people affected by TB in 2012 when he saw an announcement about the network.

“I know how the stigma feels, so I was eager to join the support network to help others through what I’d experienced.

“It is a privilege for me to be part of The Union’s programme. I am so happy to be able to help people who are suffering from TB and HIV and show them that they can overcome this.”

Myint Thein contributes to case finding activities, health education, sputum transport and referrals in collaboration with the National TB Programme and The Union. He also supports people living with HIV, helping to get them on antiretroviral therapy and connecting them to The Union’s Integrated HIV Care Programme.

Myint has also set up a sputum collection centre in his home to facilitate collection outside of working hours. His community has come to rely on him for information and the essential services he and others in the TB support network provide.

He hopes to use his story to reduce stigma and discrimination towards TB patients and people living with HIV and speaks out regularly to this end.