For the next three weeks, all eyes will be on Russia as it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics. As thousands of visitors pour into the town of Sochi for events, it was recently reported that drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is spreading faster than ever across the Eastern European country.
The Russian Federation ranks third globally in total cases of multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) after China and India – and drug-resistant TB is on the rise across Eastern Europe. According to the TB Europe Coalition, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the disintegration of health services in many Eastern European countries, which disrupted TB control.The European region is now home to nearly a quarter of all MDR-TB cases in the world.
What pressures does this tough-to-cure, airborne illness place on patients, families, health systems, and governments? What are some solutions?
In December, Tom Maguire from RESULTS UK spent two weeks reporting on drug-resistant tuberculosis in Romania. His firsthand coverage is below, and continue to watch this space for more reporting.
It couldn’t happen to me? Living with MDR-TB in Romania
During his time in Romania, Tom met with a young woman called Cristina to discuss her experience of living with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). This guest blog from Cristina shows the huge impact MDR-TB can have on a young woman’s life and the level of courage and determination that is needed to complete two years of treatment.
“You hear about it on TV but you think ‘Neah! It couldn’t happen to me’, and then it does. And you’re confused, thinking what you’ve done wrong, why did it pick you, until finally you realize you’ve done nothing wrong, you weren’t chosen, you’re just a percentage of those who catch TB, one of the poor, the malnourished or in my case simply unlucky.” Read more.
Tackling TB in Romania’s Prisons
In this blog post, Tom discusses some of the innovative measures that have been introduced in Romania’s prisons to reduce TB rates.
Despite having one of the highest rates of TB and multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) in Eastern Europe, Romania’s TB rates in prisons are remarkably low. Historically, TB rates have been drastically higher in prisons than in the general population for two reasons. Firstly, prisoners are usually more likely to come from communities where TB rates are high. Secondly, once a person enters the prison system, prison conditions – including overcrowding, poor ventilation and poor nutrition – help the disease to spread. This isn’t just a problem in low- and middle-income countries; case rates of TB in prisons are among the highest recorded in any population globally, including here in the UK. Read more.