Religious Leaders Combat TB in Tajikistan

Religious Leaders Combat TB in Tajikistan
Domullo Karimjon Roziqov shares information on TB with his residents.
Local health committees connect patients to diagnosis and treatment
“This is a disease that impacts the lives of so many even though it is entirely preventable and curable, and treatment is free in Tajikistan.”

September 2017—Every week, Karimjon Roziqov, an imam in a mosque in Tajikistan’s mountainous Rasht district, looks forward to Friday. Residents in his community call him domullo, or “teacher,” and on Fridays, after the prayer service at his mosque, he sets aside 15 minutes to talk to them about tuberculosis (TB). In predominantly Muslim Tajikistan, mosques are an effective way to reach communities, especially those in remote areas where access to print and broadcast media is limited, with important public health messages.

Although talking about infectious diseases like TB is never easy, religious leaders like Roziqov have been making great strides in breaking the taboo. “I kept asking myself, why should we keep silent about TB? This is a disease that impacts the lives of so many even though it is entirely preventable and curable, and treatment is free in Tajikistan,” he reflects.

In 2016, Roziqov heard that USAID was establishing community health committees in his district through its TB Control Program. He decided to learn more and, after meeting with committee representatives, he soon joined the committee.

Trained members of the community health committees provide a strong bridge between health care providers and communities and play a crucial role in TB awareness, breaking down the stigma and myths surrounding the disease. They also advocate with local authorities and businesses to provide financial support to TB patients in need. Even though TB treatment is free, financial support from communities provides patients with the income lost if TB treatment leaves them unable to work.

Since 2015, USAID has established 143 community health committees in Tajikistan and trained more than 800 members in 27 districts and towns on how to prevent TB, detect TB symptoms, and encourage patients to seek testing and treatment. In 2017 alone, trained community health committee members like Roziqov helped 80 patients receive TB testing and enroll in treatment.

Now, Roziqov's mosque, which has almost 500 worshippers every Friday, serves as an effective place for the community to receive crucial information about TB. He even provides his cell phone number for residents who, due to pervasive TB stigma, especially in rural areas, prefer private counseling outside the mosque.

Thanks to the USAID training on TB control, Roziqov recently recognized TB symptoms in a man who returned home from work abroad. Roziqov encouraged the man to get tested, and he is now receiving treatment and on the road to full recovery.

USAID supports the Tajikistan Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population in implementing its National TB Program by providing more effective and accessible TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment for all, including vulnerable populations. The main objective of USAID’s 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 activities, including training health care workers to strengthen the health system and expanding interagency coordination and cooperation. The program runs from September 2014 to August 2019.


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