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INTERVIEW OF DR MAURICE MUTSUNGA

As a survivor of the 10th Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) outbreak, how do you feel today?

It is a joy for me to find myself among the living, especially as 66% of people with EVD have died. My thanks go to the creator of heaven and earth and to the caregivers.

 In Beni where you live, many people still doubt this disease. Do you sometimes have the same feeling?

I never, for a moment doubted the existence of EVD especially since I suffered from it and I also studied this disease 10 years ago at the University.

 

At the very beginning of your illness, you resorted to traditional methods of healing yourself. Looking back, do you think that it was a great decision or will you say that you were rather lucky?

I am a trained medical doctor and I was infected while carrying out my duties on July 5, 2018. The patient who infected me was accompanied by his family who believed that he had been poisoned (they came after having been to a traditional healer); I subsequently developed the signs of EVD and I sought treatment first at the Mangodomu Reference Health Center, my duty station before being referred for admission  to  Lakarmissionen Hospital Center in BENI. I was later referred to the OICHA General Referral Hospital. During my convalescence, my wife fell ill and the response teams came to investigate me and after validation I was sent to the Center for Treatment of Ebola (CTE) in BENI where the sperm result came back positive for EVD (the blood came back negative because I was already healed);


Cube 6: Intensive care space reserved for medical staff infected within the Ebola treatment center of Beni

Do you have any regrets for contaminating her?

It's life. But I didn't know especially since I came out cured without knowing it.

Your couple is now a model of post Ebola hope. Do you sometimes face challenges in your married life related to your history with the disease?

At the beginning we were afraid of infecting our only child (because the virus persists in the body). We were forced to use family planning until we both got consecutive negative tests in our body fluids.

You are both still young. Are you still tempted to have more children after two unsuccessful attempts?

Absolutely. From the moment we all got two consecutive negative tests. Quite recently we had a molar pregnancy that was evacuated.

As a doctor, are you sometimes tempted to link these difficulties to EVD?

Sometimes yes

You have been very active in bringing survivors of this disease together. What are  the merits of this association and what are the activities you carry out ?

We help survivors to actively participate in the resilience process. Also, we provide psychological assistance to families and communities affected by the Ebola Viral Disease and we have established the National Association of Ebola survivors. Our objectives are to holistically support complete recovery of Ebola both psychosocial and health wise , but also to involve all those who recovered from Ebola in the surveillance of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). We also promote community engagement at all levels toward the eradication of this epidemic.  Finally, we facilitate survivors’ empowerment and their effective participation in the process of socio-economic development of their fellows.

What difficulties members frequently share with you in relation to contraception, including the use of condoms and family planning?

Some women report that their husbands refuse to use condoms. Some survivors want the IMPLANTS to be made available at the level of follow-up clinics for  the Healed people because to date only condoms are available at the level of follow-up clinics.

 

Recently you resigned from the chairmanship of the survivor’s association. Is it linked to a risk of stigma or outright fear of reprisals from those who doubt the existence of the disease?

I have served for more than two years as elected president of the association while I was attending physician at CTE BENI level. Since April 2019 I was  selected as WHO focal point for  EVD Survivors. With this development, it has been difficult for me to continue with the presidency of the Ebola Victims Association; I decided to resign and leave the post to my Deputy.

 


Dr Maurice Mutsunga totally cured, August 2020