Supporting TB clients from the market stalls
Elija, 48, strolls towards his market stall in Embu town where he sells peas. His day starts as early as five
a.m. He supplies peas to the retail vegetable market in Embu town. He buys his stock from the whole sale market to supply to other small scale business people in Embu market.
After buying his stock, he retreats to his stall where he has another task awaiting him. That of supporting TB clients to take their daily medication. Elija doubles up as community Health volunteer at the market. He ensures that his colleagues on TB treatment take their TB medication adherently. He currently has four TB clients under his care, all men aged between 37 to 50..
Peter* (not his real name) arrives first. This is his 44th day on TB treatment. Elija has his routine set. He starts by cleaning his hands from a 10-liter jerrican placed next to the stall, after which he places a few drops of sanitizer on his hands before vigorously rubbing them together in readiness to dispense the drugs to his client. He opens the huge carton-box where he stores the patients pack of TB drugs. He pulls out one packet which he carefully reads the name on the pack to confirm its Peter’s. He removes three pills from the blister packs and places them on Peter’s hand, who is now holding a glass of warm water. Peter tosses the pills one by one to the mouth and follows with a gulp of the warm water. All the while, Elija is keenly watching as peter does this. When he is done, he thanks Elija . They exchange some pleasantries about the previous day in the market before delving into some political discussion. “It’s a political year’ Elija says with a chuckle. “We can’t stay away from politics you know” He quips as he waves Peter bye and wishes him a good day. He also reminds him to eat lunch. “ Na ukumbuke lunch ni muhimu sawa?”( and remember lunch is important okay?) Peter nods and leaves in a rush. Elija will repeat the same for his other four clients.
Elija has never had TB himself. His interest in TB all started when his friend in the market fell ill with TB. Due to the demands at his place of work, he could not make time for the frequent drug refill as instructed at the hospital. He therefore defaulted on his treatment not once, not twice but three times! He was warned he could develop drug resistant TB or at the worst die if he failed on his treatment one more time! Elija became alarmed that he could loss his friend. He also knew he was at risk himself. He therefore decided to support him take his treatment and even escort him for the frequent check ups. This would not only ensure his own safety but also ensure he his friend was cured. His friend finally completed treatment and got cured.
Elija vowed to support other TB patients in the market. He therefore picks the patients packs from the community Health volunteers(CHVs) and ensures the patients religiously take their doses . Four of his patients are currently on the second month of treatment while one, a contact to one of the first four is on the first month of treatment. He also monitors six others who are on treatment but are struggling with alcohol and smoking. He ensures they do not fall back to drinking or smoking while on treatment through constant counseling.
He is currently on TB Prevention Therapy (TPT) himself. The TB coordinator in the county explained that he was at risk of infection as he interacted with persons who had TB. He admits stigma is high in the market which makes most TB patients shy off from seeking treatment. Though he is not paid for the services, “Seeing my friends’ health restored is payment enough for my sacrifice”. He concludes.
Elija works with the Global fund supported CHVs through Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB). The CHVs and the TB coordinator appreciate the role he plays in fighting stigma and supporting TB clients access services from the comfort of their workplace.