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MSF in Armenia, 2012
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In the capital Yerevan, as well as in more remote areas of the country, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are committed to improving access to treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB).
Treatment is not universally available, and those who can access it have to adhere to a grueling regimen, which can involve painful side effects, for up to two years. DR-TB is much harder to cure than drug-sensitive TB, and without appropriate support, many patients find it impossible to complete the treatment. The MSF DR-TB program in Yerevan, Armavir, Kotayk, Ararat, Lori and Shirak provides not only medication but also counseling and social support to help patients adhere to treatment.
Renovation and New Facilities
In 2012, MSF signed an agreement with health authorities to begin improving ventilation in the DR-TB ward of Armenia’s main TB hospital, Abovyan, in Yerevan. Improved ventilation and infection control will help reduce retransmission of the disease among patients. It was also agreed that a palliative care unit will be set up, so that people for whom treatment is failing can still receive care to alleviate their suffering.
Focus on Children with DR-TB
Detection of DR-TB in children is difficult, as they find it hard to cough up enough sputum for laboratory diagnosis. In 2012, MSF began to focus specifically on this issue, and in June launched a three-year study to improve understanding of infection patterns among children with DR-TB. The study has already yielded results: 23 children were diagnosed and began treatment in 2012.
When I was diagnosed with DR-TB, alarming thoughts began to swirl in my head. How could I accept the fact that I couldn’t go back to my husband? That I couldn’t have a baby for many years? I had to take about 15–20 tablets, as well as injections. I had hardly started treatment when I began to feel terribly bad. I was vomiting, losing my appetite. I couldn’t see or hear properly, had strange noises in my ears, felt a heaviness on my back. It was difficult to breathe.
The doctors said I had to get used to these feelings if I wanted to be cured. I was thinking this kind of experience couldn’t possibly be ‘treatment’. I wanted to escape from the hospital. Mariam did leave hospital, but she returned and finally completed treatment in September 2012. You can read the rest of her story at blogs.msf.org/tb
At the end of 2012, MSF had 93 staff in Armenia. MSF started working in the country in 1988.