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© Victoria Gendina/MSF

Belarus

MSF supports the Belarusian Ministry of Health to treat patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

In the Soviet post-war years, Belarus became one of the most prosperous parts of the USSR, but with independence came economic decline.

Map with all MSF projects in 2019

The landlocked country, sat between Poland and the Russian Federation, has a population of 9.5 million.

Its capital, Minsk, is known for its monumental Stalinist architecture. 

Patient story

Yury, 38, was the first patient to complete treatment in MSF’s TB programme in Belarus, run in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health.

Yury learned he was sick in 2013. “I felt weak. I was losing weight. Then I got a fever. I went to the polyclinic, thinking it was a common cold.” After learning what it was, Yury was too scared to mention it by name – not so much afraid for his life or health, more the reaction of others. “I thought everything had ended, that everybody would turn away from me.”

When MSF set up its treatment programme in 2015, Yury had been fighting the disease for two years and been diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant TB. “My doctors told me, ‘This is the only chance’. It was getting worse and worse.”

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Yury agreed to be admitted for treatment with MSF at once. “I started to improve immediately: I didn’t feel better, I had no appetite, but the tests, the X-rays – everybody was surprised! Already in October I had clear tests. Everything was clear.”

“You certainly get tired in two years. But what can you do? If it wasn’t for this treatment, we wouldn’t be speaking here right now.”

Medical research

Minsk is one of the five sites of the MSFsponsored TB PRACTECAL clinical trial, which is looking into short, innovative MDR-TB treatment regimens*. By the end of 2019, 51 patients had been recruited for the trial. Minsk is also one of the 17 sites of the endTB observational study, which is evaluating the safety and efficacy of the newer TB drugs bedaquiline and delamanid. In 2019, the team continued to follow up the 122 patients enrolled in the study

MSF's work in Belarus: 2019

Belarus is listed as a high-burden country for MDR-TB in the World Health Organization’s 2019 Global Tuberculosis Report. In 2019, we supported the Ministry of Health in four TB facilities in Minsk, the capital, and in Volkovichi village in Minsk region.

Our teams also regularly visited a penal colony in Orsha to assist with the treatment of inmates with drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) and co-infections. By the end of 2019, 54 patients with hepatitis C had received treatment with direct-acting antiviral drugs.

MSF, together with the Ministry of Health, devised a harm-reduction programme whose aim is to help patients with DR-TB and alcoholuse problems to manage their dependency on alcohol and other substances in order to finish their treatment successfully. Our psychosocial support team conducted a total of 4,255 consultations in 2019, with around 70-80 patients receiving consultations each month. We also initiated a study to demonstrate the effectiveness and feasibility of this programme.

Medical research

Minsk is one of the five sites of the MSFsponsored TB PRACTECAL clinical trial, which is looking into short, innovative MDR-TB treatment regimens*. By the end of 2019, 51 patients had been recruited for the trial.

Minsk is also one of the 17 sites of the endTB observational study, which is evaluating the safety and efficacy of the newer TB drugs bedaquiline and delamanid. In 2019, the team continued to follow up the 122 patients enrolled in the study.

*Led by MSF UK and conducted in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, other global leaders in medical research, as well as the ministries of health of Belarus, South Africa and Uzbekistan. TB PRACTECAL is an innovative research project that seeks to find injection-free, short, tolerable, and effective treatments for people with DR-TB.

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