35-year-old Mohamed Karanja was watching TV at Kitengela GK Prison, Kajiado County where he is serving a jail term when he got attracted to a TB infomercial running on the TV.
“Unlike the other information that had aired before, this caught my attention as it spoke of something that had been disturbing me for some time. I had been experiencing fatigue, night sweats, and loss of appetite,” Karanja shares.
He continues “The infomercial described this together with a cough of any duration as the cardinal signs and symptoms of TB and called out anyone having either or all to seek treatment in the nearest health facility. The infomercial was more convincing as one of its characters was my fellow prisoner. There and then I made up my mind and left for the health centre located inside here.”
Upon explaining to the health worker at the health centre what he was feeling, he was requested to take a TB test.
“The health worker gave me a sputum collection container and requested I go to the coughing booth where she showed me how to obtain the required sputum for testing. This involved taking a deep breath, holding the air for a few seconds, breathing out slowly, taking another deep breath, and coughing hard until the sputum came up in the mouth and spitting it into the collection container,” Karanja recalls.
Immediately after the sputum collection, it was examined in the laboratory using a GeneXpert machine. The machine was placed in the facility by the Ministry of Health National TB Program and is supported by Centre for Health Solutions – Kenya, USAID funded Tuberculosis Accelerated Response and Care II (TB ARC II) activity to provide real-time results through bundling and up-to-date maintenance.
“Within a few hours, the results were out. The health worker interpreted them to me that the confirmation was that I had TB. She went further to explain that I would be put under a six month treatment period as I had drug susceptible TB. This would involve taking drugs daily to be completely cured,” Karanja says.
Karanja was immediately initiated into treatment. He was also isolated to avoid infecting his fellow inmates. As days went by, his health kept on improving. By the second week, he was no-infectious as his smear had converted (i.e., three consecutive AFB smear-negative results from sputum specimens collected more than eight hours apart), and went back to stay with the rest.
“By the second week of being on treatment, all the symptoms were gone. It was encouraging to see the improvement in my health, and this kept me going.”
He continued to adhere to the treatment and is now fully recovered.
“ I have since regained back my health. My weight has improved from 50 to 63 kilograms. I am now proactively engaged in various productive activities here assigned by the prison wardens as opposed to spending most of the time sleeping or seated which was the case when I was sick.”
Karanja’s fellow inmates were also screened for TB. Those found to have the disease were also initiated on treatment. At the prison, Karanja is on the lookout for anyone exhibiting any signs and symptoms of TB.
“ I normally encourage them to go for TB screening as the disease is treatable and curable. If you don’t go early enough the disease may progress and end up killing you. Those on treatment, I encourage them to complete treatment and get cured as I did,” he says.
He is thankful to the health workers for supporting him in his treatment and recovery journey as well as the Ministry of Health National TB Program and its partners like Centre for Health Solutions – Kenya USAID funded Tuberculosis Accelerated Response and Care II (TB ARC II) for supporting free TB diagnosis, treatment and treatment follow up in the country. Karanja calls for more targeted TB awareness creation to enlighten people.
“I would encourage more messaging on TB, it will benefit the patients and everyone in general. Knowledge is power. Were it not for that infomercial I watched, I would not have gone to the facility and gotten treated what was ailing me,” he concludes.
Prisoners like Karanja are among the key population most affected by TB due to poor living conditions; congestion and poor ventilation. The Ministry of Health National TB Program in collaboration with Centre for Health Solutions – Kenya USAID funded Tuberculosis Accelerated Response and Care II have been reaching this population plus millions of Kenyans with co-created and targeted TB campaigns disseminated through various platforms, including posters, radios, television, digital media platforms, and wall branding. The campaigns are aimed at raising TB awareness, demand creation for TB services, and treatment completion.