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Bridging Cultures, Healing Lives: CDC-Backed Telemedicine Program’s Impact in Lusaka and Livingstone.

In the heart of Dambwa North in Livingstone, Southern Zambia lives a 23-year-old Ruth Nyambe (Not her real name), who experienced a clash of beliefs between modern healthcare and cultural beliefs.

Ruth was enjoying life as a house help when she started experiencing unexplained weight loss and had a persistent cough lasting more than three weeks.

The first thing that her family suspected was witchcraft, and she decided to seek solace in traditional healing practices.

Ruth narrated that despite consulting a witch doctor, her health continued to deteriorate, compelling her to turn to conventional medical assistance.

“My test revealed a positive tuberculosis TB diagnosis. This shattered the notion of enchantment that had clouded my journey to recovery”, she recalls.

Ruth added that on the day she was called to the facility to be informed of the test results, she was accompanied by her uncle, who strongly refused to accept the results, stating that her affliction was rooted in witchcraft rather than a medical condition.

Despite family resistance to TB medication, Ruth said she found support from the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) Telemed program, which provided counselling services to address her mental and emotional well-being.

Beyond the physical toll of the illness, she narrated that she faced social stigma within her own family.

“I was isolated and segregated and was assigned a separate plate, cup, and spoon. The rejection by some family members pushed me to the brink of being sent back to the village”, she said.

Ruth outlined that amidst the commotion, the CIDRZ Telemed program lifted her spirit, encouraging her to adhere to the medication.

“I found joy, peace, and comfort in the Telemed program throughout my treatment. Their monthly phone calls and physical engagement helped me to complete my treatment and get better”, she narrated.

The Proud-Z Telemed program, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reached 970 individuals like Ruth in 2022.

Operating across five sites in Lusaka and Livingstone, this initiative facilitated crucial emotional and psychological support, bridging the gap between traditional beliefs and contemporary healthcare practices.