30 January 2017, Danghara, Tajikistan - Saykhonim Karimova did not understand why the USAID Tuberculosis (TB) Control Program invited her to participate in a training seminar on TB prevention among migrant workers. Saykhonim is the Chair of her local mahalla (neighborhood association) in Danghara District, Tajikistan, but in her mind TB prevention fell exclusively within the domain of medical professionals.
Recognizing that communities play a critical role in raising TB awareness and providing support to those in need of TB care, the USAID TB Control Program in Tajikistan works to develop community-based support systems. By engaging and training community leaders like Saykhonim, residents receive information about TB, are referred for testing, and the TB patients and families most in need receive vital financial support from local authorities.
At the training seminar, Saykhonim, long known for her unwavering commitment to serve her community and can-do attitude, learned that migrant workers returning to Tajikistan are disproportionately impacted by this infectious disease due to the lack of information about TB prevention and lack of access to TB care. They are also more likely than the general population to delay or discontinue treatment which can lead to drug resistant forms of the disease. Drug resistant TB is a major public health challenge in Tajikistan and neighboring Central Asian countries.
In addition to advocating for financial assistance for TB patients, Saykhonim, in partnership with Tajikistan’s National TB Program, raises awareness within her community about the importance of early TB detection and treatment. "Initially I was skeptical but I am grateful to USAID for involving me in TB prevention and especially among returning migrant workers. Now, in my daily work with the public, I always talk about TB prevention," says Saykhonim.
Since completing TB prevention training in 2016, Saykhonim and other mahalla leaders in Danghara District and nearly 1,000 community outreach workers trained by USAID throughout Tajikistan have counseled and provided information about TB to nearly 20,000 migrant workers and their families, leading to detection of over 40 new TB cases among this at-risk group in four program districts.
USAID supports the Tajikistan Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population in implementing the National TB Program by providing more effective and accessible TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for all, including vulnerable populations. The main objective of the five-year, $13.2 million USAID TB Control Program is to reduce the burden of tuberculosis and prevent multidrug-resistant forms of the disease. The program covers a wide range of technical areas, including strengthening the health system’s human and institutional capacity, expanding interagency coordination and cooperation, and improving timely access to TB diagnosis and treatment.