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Miss SA speaks out about surviving TB: 'This is my beginning to ending the stigma'

2018-08-30 16:45
Tamaryn Green
Tamaryn Green. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Cape Town - Tamaryn Green, Miss South Africa 2018, has revealed that she’s a survivor of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).

Speaking at the launch of her #breakingthestigma campaign at the Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg on Thursday the 24-year-old medical student said she contracted the disease after being exposed to it as a third-year student in 2015.

“I remember the day like it was yesterday,” Tamaryn said, trying to hold back tears.

“Like any ordinary day, I woke up – I was heading to campus as a student, but I knew something was different. I woke up that morning and there was a lump in my neck. I just knew something wasn’t right.”

After a few consultations with doctors, biopsies and an operation to excise the lump she was diagnosed with pulmonary TB.

While battling to accept the diagnosis Tamaryn was also wrestling with the fear of being stigmatised because of the disease.

“I ask myself why it took three years to talk about my story, and the answer is stigma – the stigma associated with TB.”

The sixth-year medical student said TB is seen as a disease of dirty people and is associated with HIV.

She decided to disclose it only to her family and close friends because she feared being ostracised.

“To me – someone coming from a supportive household, a roof over my head, clean water – I ask myself, what are people going through who have this disease and don’t have that support structure? What are people going through who are too scared to go to clinics because they fear being stigmatised by being diagnosed with TB?”

But the reigning Miss South Africa says winning the title has made her brave enough to talk about it and to use the platform to actively work towards breaking the stigma, because TB doesn’t discriminate. 

“This is my story, this is me and this is my beginning to ending the stigma against TB.”

Through #breakthestigma, Tamaryn wants to encourage people who present symptoms of TB to seek treatment because the disease is curable; and to make it a talking point as one of the top 10 killers in the world.

According to the World Health Organisation, “TB is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/Aids.”

In a video aired at the event health minister Aaron Motsoaledi thanked Tamaryn for her patriotism.

“I look forward to working closely with you and other TB ambassadors in taking the message to all South Africans that TB is curable,” he said.