Miss South Africa 2018 Tamaryn Green may be nearing the end of her year-long rein but she continues to strive for greater awareness surrounding the disease Tuberculosis.
As a medical student Tamaryn was exposed to and contracted TB but made a full recovery from the treatable condition, an example she hopes will serve to encourage others to seek treatment and talk about pressing health issues.
Tamaryn revealed in a recent Q&A with globalcause that it was through entering Miss South Africa that she gained the confidence to speak out about her experiences with TB:
“I am a TB survivor and believe the Miss SA platform is a brilliant one to raise awareness around the disease,” Tamaryn said.
“TB is currently one of the most relevant and pressing global issues we face. As Miss South Africa speaking up about my experience, I contribute to breaking the stigma, that only certain people contract TB.
“For three years I feared speaking up about my experience. The Miss SA platform gave me the confidence to do so. I hope to encourage others to speak up about their stories. “
Tamaryn shared her own struggles with treating the disease, even with access to the best in medical care, complications arose.
She added: “I contracted TB in 2015 as a third year medical student. I managed to complete my six-month treatment, but it was no walk in the park.
“It was a tough and traumatising period in my life, for my family and for me.
“From taking medication every day to developing drug-induced hepatitis as result of that medication it was not easy. The hepatitis lead to symptoms of daily nausea, weakness and even delirium at times.”
Aside from the physical effects of the disease and the toll of the treatment Tamaryn found the stigma surrounding the disease to be incredibly taxing on her mental health.
She went on: “The fear of isolation and discrimination as result of the stigma was emotionally and mentally taxing. The trauma of it all stuck with me for three years after being cured, even though I thought I’d dealt with it all.”
The stigma surrounding the disease is steeped in misinformation and fear which actively discourages some from seeking treatment for TB or from sticking to the medical regimen, something Tamaryn is on a mission to turn around.
She continued: “Stigma can cause a delay in patients seeking diagnosis or discontinuation of their treatment. The fear of family and friends finding out often leads to missing clinical appointments or not administering the medication.
“People must be better educated about tuberculosis. The misconceptions and myths must be broken. With better understanding comes more acceptance. More survivors and those affected by the illness should be encouraged to share their stories.
“There are still many misconceptions around tuberculosis. The only way to eradicate it is through health education and awareness.”
Tamaryn has encouraged people from various sectors to get involved in the fight against TB, from government to social welfare groups, NGOs, healthcare facilities and the mining industry.
The pageant winner resumed her medical studies earlier this month and hopes to be on the front lines in the fight against the disease but has also called for research to be done to produce better and safer medications to treat the conditions that still kills millions.
The stigma surrounding the disease directly impacts the proliferation of drug-resistant TB, which is among the greatest public health threats facing South Africa and other developing countries.
When asked about the dangers of drug-resistant TB Tamaryn said: ” The numbers cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis(MDR) TB are rising. One of the biggest problems is that the medication to treat MDR TB requires a longer duration of treatment with more side effects. This is a huge barrier and often leads to poor adherence from patients. “
Tamaryn encourages anyone showing TB symptoms to seek treatment and to adhere to that regimen as directed by their doctor.