A New Path Forward

Speeches Shim

Thursday, September 9, 2021
Mehrubon working in the office
RPO "Afif"

Mehrubon, a 42-year old man, lives in a remote village Yol of the Shamsiddin Shohin district in Tajikistan. When he was 18, an incident forced him to leave the country and become a labor migrant in Russia where he worked as a loader in a store. While in Russia in 2001, Mehrubon was put on the federal wanted list in his native town, and in 2002 he was deported from Russia. Upon arrival in Tajikistan, he was admitted to a colony, a Bokhtar city’s prison. 

In penitentiary institutions, residents do not  pay attention to their health. The flu and sore throats are not considered serious illnesses for prisoners. 

“At that time, I didn’t know how wrong I was,” says Mehrubon “In 2018 my health was getting  worse, but I  ignored it. However, I was getting more and more sick. I couldn’t  breathe and I was experiencing severe chest pains. After I coughed blood for the first time, I became very scared, thinking that I was going to die”, remembers  Mehrubon. 

After seeing the doctors at the colony, he was  diagnosed with multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), and prescribed a treatment regimen. In October 2018, he was transferred to the central colony hospital, where he started the MDR-TB treatment. After XX years in prison, Mehrubon was released on March 1, 2019, and returned to his mother's house. 

 Upon arrival home,  Mehrubon stopped his treatment. Without medical documents -- a form and an outpatient TB card -- a TB specialist at the Bokhtar city’s health center did not prescribe TB drugs for Mehrubon. His predicament seemed desperate as he also didn’t have financial resources to ride long distances in order to see doctors every day. He remembered his earlier poor health condition, shuddering in fear that he would become seriously ill again, and that no one would help him. 

But  Mehrubon’s luck was about to change when he met Qurbongul Alimova, a social worker of the Republican Public Organization Afif in the Khatlon region who works for USAID’s Prevention and Treatment of Tuberculosis in Prisons project. The project aims to reduce TB cases by timely detection and treatment of TB among prisoners and those released from prisons. Qurbongul received Mehrubon’s contacts from the regional Reproductive Health Center. 

“After our conversation, he had a hope that we could help him with his problem,” says Qurbongul. 

They arranged a meeting where Qurbongul explained to Mehrubon the types of assistance he would receive if he joined the program. 

“Of course, I agreed,’ says Mehrubon, “and soon, Qurbongul’s colleagues  helped me obtain medical documents that enabled me to continue my TB treatment. They were with me  for the TB diagnosis,  and consultations with a specialist, which meant a great deal to me,” says Mehrubon continued. 

As part of the program, Mehrubon has received counseling on TB, food products, and social assistance several times. His travel expenses were paid. Thanks to the USAID project, he was gradually reentering the community. One day, Qurbongul invited him to Afif in Bokhtar city. There, he met befriended people with similar experience. 

“Once I saw all those people, I understood fully how  invaluable the work of the staff of this project is. Many convicts in prisons, many former prisoners have an opportunity to receive comprehensive assistance and support in their difficult life situations, 

This realization led Mehrubon to volunteer for the project, and help people like him. Qurbongul, explained that Afif has been practicing peer consulting for many years, noting that best peer counselors are people who know what it means to live with TB

“ I went through a lot, so I continue helping TB patients voluntarily. The social workers of Afif were an example for me. They were there for me when I felt alone with my disease”, says Mehrubon.

Mehrubon has fully recovered from TB, and continues working with ex-prisoners with TB.

 

Last updated: September 17, 2021

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