Oxana Rucsineanu

Oxana Rucsineanu

Recently, Oxana Rucsineanu, a member of the TB Europe Coalition Steering Committee, was invited to take part in the WHO Review of the National TB Programme for TB Control in Armenia. Oxana’s invite follows calls from civil society organisations towards the WHO to include a civil society or key affected voice in these NTP reviews. With her extensive experience both of TB itself and of the need to include the civil society voice in TB programmes, Oxana was well placed to take part in this visit to Armenia. Here Oxana shares some of her findings and recommendations from the visit.

Findings

It is promising to see that recently one TB patient group, led by an MDR-TB survivor, has been formed in Armenia. This is considered a big step in making the voices of people affected by TB heard and their needs better articulated. On a similar note, the involvement of ex-patients in peer to peer education started in June 2014.

There are several NGOs active in TB control in Armenia, though the extent to which they are working on the issue is certainly varied. These include: The Armenian Red Cross Society (ACRS), MSF, Mission East Armenia, Yerevan Home Care, Foundation for the sake of Children’s Health, Real World Real People, and the Positive People Armenian Network.  These organisations, particularly ARCS, MSF, and YHC are the key organisations that are working with TB patients using ACSM tools such as psycho-social assistance and information, education and counselling activities.

Worth noting is the fact that due to the contribution of MSF and the good partnership this organisation has with the NTP team, the new drug Bedaquiline is available for MDR and XDR patients through a Compassionate Use Programme. From the perspective of human rights and ensuring quick access to new and effective drugs this is most definitely a step in the right direction.

As a result of funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the ARCS is able to re-train ARCS social workers on TB and MDR-TB so they are able to provide social support to TB patients in the country.

Another recipient of the Global Fund has been Yerevan Home Care which has been able to deliver treatment and social support services to over 100 TB patients with difficulties and mobile deficiencies since 2013.

Promisingly, there is a focal person for ACSM activities within the National TB Programme. The ACSM Focal Point has conducted face-to-face counselling sessions for regular TB patients and trainings in ACSM for medical staff.

Medical and social support is very important but there is a lot of space for IEC interventions and community involvement. These activities should be increased by any possible means to raise the knowledge about TB between patients, reduce stigma and self-stigma between patients and general population.
 
WHO team along with the Armenia National TB Control Center are working on a set of recommendations for ACSM and Community Involvement Component of the NTP Armenian Review.