It’s been three months since 6th-year medical student, Tamaryn Green, was pronounced the most beautiful, smartest and inspiring girl in South Africa from a class of 12 finalists. Today, she announced her official mission for her one-year reign; a campaign whose aim is to #BreakTheStigma against TB which is the leading cause of death in South Africans according to Stats SA.
There is been much debate around the modern value of pageants especially when women’s appearances have often been used against us, to manipulate us, to sell things to us and so much more. But the slow yet evident evolution of Miss South Africa has seen the pageant really try focus and promote the “beauty and brains” and “beauty with a purpose” messages.
The power of the Miss SA platform is bigger than I could ever have imagined and I am in a position where my voice can be heard and with that I have an opportunity to help as many people as I can.
So, today when Tamaryn Green announced her initiative for the year of her year reign, that idea of “beauty with a purpose” really shone through. In her pledge to work to change the negative stigma that surrounds TB, a curable disease which affects countless South Africans, she also announced that she is a TB survivor. The health sciences student detailed her traumatic journey with the disease three years ago and how it is something she hid from friends and family due to fear of how she’d be treated thanks to the stigma the disease has.
“It took me three years to talk about my story. I could have avoided a lot of trauma speaking about it sooner. I am now in the process of dealing with it. I want to encourage people not to be afraid to speak up about their problems and get the help they need. It is the only way we are going to beat TB, ” she says.
On Dealing with TB as a Med-Student
Being a sixth-year medical student allowed me to witness the TB problem first hand. It has helped me identify the need for this outreach and through my studies I have a better understanding of the disease, allowing me to stand stronger in support of this project. The experience with patient doctor interaction also helps me relate and empathise with those who have been affected by this disease.
On the Biggest Lessons Through Her Recovery
I grew and learned so much about myself through the process. I always saw myself as a strong and independent woman. While being ill I was vulnerable and needed help. I learned that you don’t have to deal with everything by yourself. I was disappointed in myself for falling ill, placing more strain on my family and deferring an exam as a third-year medical student. Speaking about this now is hopefully not only helping other people speak up but is also helping me process and deal with what happened.
What We All Need to Know About TB
TB does not discriminate! Anyone can get it. Stigma and discrimination prevent effective diagnosis and treatment.
TB is a curable disease yet so many people still die at the hands of this disease every day.
TB is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs, but can attack other parts of the body, such as the joints, bones, the nervous system and lymph nodes.
TB is a global problem, although undeveloped countries usually have much higher incidences than developed countries. South Africa has one of the highest reported TB infection rates in the world.
TB is mainly spread by breathing in airborne bacteria from people with active infectious TB.
A person can be infected by the TB organism for years without getting sick or spreading the disease. If the immune system is weakened for some reason, latent TB infection can develop into active disease. This can happen to anyone.
Although TB can be treated, the minimum period required for successful treatment is six months and medication must be taken exactly as prescribed. Failure to complete the treatment regimen may result in the emergence of drug resistant strains of TB. This has already happened in South Africa.
TB is not spoken about enough. We need more attention drawn to the issue. Treatment is given but not enough counselling around the disease and importance of adherence is done. Access to health facilities are not always possible for many people. This prevents diagnosis, follow-up is often lost and people never get their diagnosis and treatment. The stigma around TB makes disclosure to families and friends very difficult and often discourages patients attending clinics. There is a lot of shaming and blaming of patients around this disease and we are with Tamaryn Green’s mission to#BreakTheStigma!