Recovering from multidrug-resistant TB in Turkmenistan

There are now six renovated TB Labs that provide high quality fast results for TB in Turkmenistan. Photo: Claire Ladavicius

Vyacheslav Kunitsyn, 58, served as a bus driver for 10 years before he was diagnosed with TB.

“I had to adhere to sanitary norms. I didn’t see my grandchildren for about six months, I didn’t communicate with anyone except my wife and my son. I was determined to get better,” recalls Vyacheslav.

Highlights

  • The Global Fund grant total amount to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Turkmenistan is USD 17.4 million.
  • Drug-susceptibility testing increased from 27% in 2011 to 44% in 2014, and to approximately 60% in 2015. It is expected to reach 91% by 2018.
  • There are 6 labs with rapid molecular detection of MDR-TB (Xpert technology) facilities. UNDP constructed or renovated each of them and provided high-tech equipment for testing, as well as training for the staff.
  • In total 563 MDR-TB patients were enrolled in treatment in 2013-2015.
  • The National TB Programme plans to scale up MDR-TB detection and treatment, aiming to enroll 550 patients in 2016 and 760 in 2017.

Social stigma can be an additional burden for the psychology of the patients. In this context, family support becomes even more critical.

His doctor advised Vyacheslav on the importance of uninterrupted treatment and also provided monthly food parcels to support him. He received treatment for a year. During this time, a volunteer nurse from the National Red Crescent Societyvisited Vyacheslav every month to monitor the progress and also morally supported him and his family. After his successful treatment, which lasted one year, he was able to start working again.

“My family made sure that we used separate dishes, washed the floor with chlorine every night and in the morning. I couldn’t talk to my neighbors and my circle of friends shrank. When the nurse came, she encouraged me, because sometimes I felt very down.”

Sometimes TB patients develop multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). Between 2013 and 2015, 563 MDR-TB patients were enrolled in treatment in Turkmenistan. This strain of TB cannot be cured by basic antibiotics. It needs to be treated with “second-line” drugs. This long and challenging process requires the strength of the patient and enormous support from the family.

A UNDP-supported, Global Fund (GF)-financed initiative aims to reduce the burden of tuberculosis on the local community. Many patients, like Vyacheslav, are now eligible to receive professional counseling and monthly food parcels throughout their treatment.

Vyacheslav got sick for the second time in 2015. His regular antibiotics did not work, and he was eventually diagnosed with MDR-TB. His tests were then sent to one of the six modern laboratories constructed within the UNDP/GF project, which now operate around Turkmenistan and provide high quality rapid diagnosis for MDR-TB. The tests showed that Vyacheslav was resistant to two types of drugs and was assigned a new treatment accordingly.

After almost two years of treatment for MDR-TB, Vyacheslav has completed the course. He follows his doctor’s advice to take care of himself better. “I am back to being healthy,” he says, smiling. “I can take my grandkids out again and play with them, and I can meet my friends. Life is good again.”

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