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MSF in Armenia, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 134
Reason for Intervention:
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People living in impoverished, landlocked Armenia in the South Caucasus, once part of the former Soviet Union, suffer the effects of a chronically under-funded healthcare system. Tuberculosis is one disease that is spreading, yet appropriate treatment is not widely available and an accurate infection rate is unknown.
Working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Yerevan City Mayor Hall in the TB program in Yerevan, the country’s capital, MSF teams see drug-resistant TB in some of its patients. Together with the MoH, MSF offers the only drug-resistant TB care available in the country in Abovian, near Yerevan, where MSF has renovated a 36-bed inpatient unit at the Republican TB hospital.
The drug-resistant forms of TB require complicated treatment that is expensive, lengthy, and often excruciating for patients because of severe side effects. By June 2007, MSF had enrolled a total of 70 patients for drug-resistant TB treatment. These patients have to take up to 25 medicines daily during several months of hospitalization in Abovian, followed by outpatient treatment, often lasting 18-21 months, in clinics in two districts of Yerevan. To ease this cumbersome treatment, MSF has adapted a patient-centered approach and provides individually tailored adherence and social support. MSF is also exploring the treatment coverage for drug-resistant TB in the two districts in Yerevan to further develop the program.
Handover of mental health, primary healthcare and STI treatment programs The past year was marked for MSF in Armenia with the reduction of its projects. MSF has provided assistance to the Armenian population for many years and a number of long supported projects have now been handed over. At the end of 2006, MSF entrusted its project working with mentally ill outpatients in Gegharkunik Marz (northeastern Armenia) to the MoH and a local NGO “Mission Armenia”. Combating the stigma traditionally associated with mental illness, MSF was developing a system of alternative care for this highly vulnerable group of people, aiming to decrease unnecessary hospitalization. In January 2007, the MoH took over another MSF project in the same district, which included primary healthcare provision for the most needy. In northern Shirak district, MSF had established anonymous, free of charge services for diagnosing and treating sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV/AIDS. The project also increased knowledge and raised awareness about STI prevention, and has continued under local healthcare structures since March 2007.
MSF has worked in Armenia since 1988.