Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) supports the Armenian health ministry in improving drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) control activities in the country.
TB remains a significant public health concern in Armenia, as the country has one of the highest rates of the multidrug-resistant (MDR-TB) form of the disease in the world. According to the National Reference Laboratory, in 2012 MDR-TB was detected in 38 per cent of patients being re-treated and in 14 per cent of all new TB cases.
Since 2005, MSF has been working in Armenia to improve diagnosis and treatment of DR-TB, and to support patients to complete the arduous regimen. This has been achieved through patient education, counselling and social support. MSF has also helped implement infection control measures and practices.
Bedaquiline, a new TB drug, has been available to patients with MDR-TB and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) since April 2013. Between April 2013 and September 2014, MSF and the health ministry provided bedaquiline to 46 patients. MSF supports the supply of the drug, as well as the day-to-day care and follow-up of patients taking it. Other antibiotics that are efficient in treating resistant forms of the disease are also made available.
Current treatments for MDR-TB and XDR-TB are long, taking up to two years. They are also painful and can have serious side effects, such as loss of hearing. Furthermore, they are not that effective: fewer than 50 per cent of patients are cured. Seasonal economic migration and the social stigma surrounding the disease further complicate the task of keeping patients under treatment. MSF works with the health ministry to offer support adapted to the individual patient, for example home-based care when needed and counselling.
The MSF team aims to enhance the national programme’s capacity to implement DR-TB response plans in preparation for the handover of DR-TB management, which should happen in 2016.
No. staff in 2014: 91 | Expenditure: €2.2 million | Year MSF first worked in the country: 1988 | msf.org/armenia