Raising Women's Awareness Helps in Early Diagnosis of Tuberculosis

Aknur lives with her husband, three children and father-in-law in the village of Baharden,

When her father-in-law got sick, they thought that it is a mere cold. However, three weeks later, they could not find a relieve. Through her job Aknur attended an information session led by representatives of the Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan, Women’s Union and a TB specialist from the TB hospital. During the information session, Aknur learned what tuberculosis (TB) is and how the disease exhibits its symptoms. She was worried that her father-in-law might be TB-positive and approached the TB specialist and asked for help.

TB specialist called a TB doctor on duty in the area and Aknur’s father-in-law was sent to undertake lab tests for TB. It turned out that Aknur’s father-in-law undertook TB treatment in 2015, but only his doctor and his wife knew about it. When the man got sick and started coughing and having fever again, he did not want to go to the media hospital. Aknur insisted on lab tests and medical checkup and her father-in-law was diagnosed with TB again.

In 2018, the National Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan, the Women’s Union of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan have signed a joint working plan conduct an information campaign to raise awareness of the population on TB and other infectious diseases, promote healthy lifestyle and well-being through information sessions with special focus on women. The sessions are open for men also, who already exhibit interest in learning more about their health and weeb-bieng of their families.

These information sessions allow medical workers to talk to people about TB and its symptoms and ensure immediate access to the TB specialists who provide instant consultations, take notes of the raised questions and, where possible, take immediate action on the spot by putting potential patients in touch with the doctors as it happened in case of Aknur.

“The National Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan has many years of experience of working under the Global Fund grant which is implemented through UNDP in Turkmenistan. Working with the UNDP/GF project helped us build the capacity of our organization so that we are now able to develop the programme on prevention of the TB ourselves and scale up the results achieved together with the Ministry of health and medical industry,” notes representative of the National Red Crescent Society. “There is a general agreement that TB issue can be solved only with active participation of the whole society. Together with the Women’s Union of Turkmenistan we have conducted 21 sessions covering 3 345 women working in the textiles and yarn industries throughout the country.”

The Government of Turkmenistan prioritizes public health and pays special attention to eliminating TB. Thanks to modern methods for diagnostics and treatment, TB rates (morbidity and mortality) have declined significantly over the past 10 years.

The rapid diagnostics is available in each region of the country and free medical treatment is available for all. Specialized nurses and doctors closely monitor medication intake by each patient and provide regular consultations on the progress of treatment for each patient. To ensure sustainability of the results achieved, it is important to carry out preventive measures, which include public education, so that people are aware of the early symptoms of the disease and seek medical help, since in this case it is possible to diagnose the disease at an early stage and cure it.

Often times, people decide not to call a doctor to check on their health and diagnose what disease they have. Unfortunately, people often disregard annual professional medical checkups too. Time constraints, household chores and other errands prevail over the need to take care of their health among many people. As a result, people take medicines out of the counter and disregard some symptoms which can signal serious diseases such as TB,” noted TB Specialist, Amansoltan Kurbanovna. “For this reason, information sessions, which we conduct help people realize that something might be wrong with their own or their neighbors’ or family members’ health and receive immediate professional consultation as it happened with Aknur.”

As a result of the conducted information sessions starting from mid-2019, 114 people have been referred to seek for professional counseling on the issues of their overall health, and 60 people were referred to undergo lab tests for TB.

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The UN Development Program has been implementing a TB grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Turkmenistan since 2010. The grant provided universal access to early and high-quality diagnosis of all forms of TB, universal access to quality patient-oriented treatment of all forms of TB and strengthened monitoring and evaluation of the TB program. UNDP is currently implementing a “transitional grant” from the Global Fund, after which the Government of Turkmenistan will ensure the implementation of the National TB Program with full state funding.

Written by
Author
Nazik Avlyakulova
Communications Analyst
UNDP
Nazik Avlyakulova Communications Analyst UNDP Turkmenistan
UN entities involved in this initiative
UNDP
United Nations Development Programme