Kyrgyzstan: behind bars with tuberculosis
In Kyrgyzstan tuberculosis remains a serious threat to public health, and prisons are a primary breeding ground for the disease. Andrea Isenegger of Médecins Sans Frontières reports on how that organization and the ICRC are supporting government efforts to control tuberculosis in prisons.
Although it is a curable disease, tuberculosis (TB) is a grave concern for the Kyrgyz prison system. Owing, in part, to the difficult conditions in the country’s prisons, the incidence of tuberculosis there is about three dozen times higher than that in the general population.
It is crucial for inmates to remain on treatment upon their release, otherwise they risk developing resistance to the treatment and contracting multidrug-resistant TB. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a serious condition that requires very long and difficult treatment with toxic medicines.
However patients from the southern region of the country have difficulty in continuing their treatment because of lack of medical facilities and resources.
Pooling efforts to fight the disease
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the ICRC have been helping strengthen efforts to control tuberculosis in Kyrgyz prisons since 2005. They work in cooperation with the ministries of justice and health, helping treat TB patients in penal medical institutions by providing direct medical care, supporting screening for tuberculosis in the prison system and trying to curb the alarming rate of drug resistance.
The photo exhibition, “Behind bars with tuberculosis”, organized by MSF and the ICRC, was dedicated to the treatment of the disease in Kyrgyz prisons. In it, vivid photographs by Alexander Glyadelov painted a clear picture of tuberculosis and its impact on the inmates. The exhibition also depicted the work being carried out, specifically by MSF and the ICRC, to treat infected inmates. Additionally, it sought to raise public awareness of the disease.
Held in Osh, a city in the southern region of Kyrgyzstan, the exhibition attracted some 1,500 visitors. During the first two-three days of the exhibition, MSF and ICRC medical staff were on hand to provide detailed explanations, especially to medical and pharmaceutical students.
When it was first held, in Bishkek, in December 2007, the exhibition drew over 4,000 visitors within three weeks.
How others can help
The organizers of the exhibition also hoped that it would encourage non-governmental organizations and public donors to take the problem of tuberculosis in Kyrgyzstan seriously and help solve it either through financial support, active community participation or by raising public awareness of it.