Inspire by USAID Training, Renowned Uzbekistani Journalist Commits to Informing Public on Tuberculosis

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Abror Zokhidov featured above

Tuberculosis (TB) continues to remain a high burden for Uzbekistan, particularly for multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients. In the last decade, Uzbekistan has made significant progress in the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up monitoring of TB and MDR-TB patients. Uzbekistan is committed to eliminating TB by 2050. Yet, the country ranks among the top 30 countries in the world for harder-to-treat drug-resistant TB cases. TB is still stigmatized and misinformation about the disease is widespread. USAID supports Uzbekistan’s National TB Program in combating this stigma and misinformation, often by leveraging the mass media.

A recent USAID training for media representatives prompted a reporter from a news outlet in Uzbekistan to publish a series of materials on TB and regularly update its wide-reaching Telegram channel on health issues, including TB.

Abror Zokhidov reports for kun.uz, a large, influential internet media outlet with a readership of over one million in Uzbekistan. A respected journalist, he has been nominated for numerous media awards, including the annual National Oltin Kalam Prize in journalism, and has covered health and other social issues for several years. 

Still, until 2021, Abror had never written about TB. 

This past year, in the midst of the COVID crisis and with health at the top of his mind, Abror took part in a USAID-led training on the prevention and treatment of TB for journalists. Hearing from TB patients in their own words and learning how much stigma they felt as they struggled to get well, he realized how important his role as a journalist could be in helping raise awareness about the disease and combating misleading beliefs and stigma related to TB.

While TB is spread from person to person via airborne droplets, the spread of the disease is exacerbated by a lack of understanding, myths and misconceptions, and stigma. Many people who experience potential TB symptoms such as cough, night sweats, and weight loss, do not realize they need to see a doctor for a TB test, others fear TB and are afraid to get tested, or shun community members who test positive.    

The USAID Eliminating TB in Central Asia activity’s training aimed to engage journalists in getting accurate information out to the public; raise public understanding that TB is curable; and that people with TB need support to get better. 

After attending the USAID training, Abror continued to explore the topic more on his own and to take action by publishing articles on the subject. He notes, “The media is able to be an active player in the fight against TB, and thanks to the training organized by USAID, I received valuable information about TB and realized how important it is to cover this topic among the population.”

In the first couple of months following the training, Abror published more than a dozen articles on TB on kun.uz. The Uzbek version of the website is read by more than a million people, nearly 2.8 percent of the population, throughout the country, with the Russian-language version of the site reaching a readership of 400,000. Links to Abror’s articles reached over 1.5 million subscribers through the website’s Telegram channel that Abror created and promoted soon after the training.

Among his most-read articles is an interview he conducted with the Head of Uzbekistan’s National TB Program, Professor Nargiza Parpieva. Professor Parpieva’s interview on the current TB situation in Uzbekistan reached not only the readers of kun.uz, but was also picked up by many other news sites and republished.

Abror sees continued work to fight TB in his future. He is committed to combating misinformation and stigma related to TB and wants to get other journalists on board with this mission. 

He plans to train young, novice journalists, and create a strong professional team to provide reliable and accurate information through the media, covering the actual TB situation in the country, thereby dispelling many of the myths that still prevail among the population.

“Each journalist is granted the opportunity to help close information gaps. I’ll do my best to convey this message to younger generations and guide them,” says Abror. 

Since February 2021, the USAID Eliminating TB in Central Asia activity has trained 28 reporters representing Uzbekistan’s Ferghana, Djizzak, and Syrdarya regions and Tashkent city. Disseminating accurate information about TB contributes to improvements in public knowledge and understanding of TB, which in turn contributes to improved TB diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of the disease.

ABOUT THIS STORY:

The USAID Eliminating Tuberculosis in Central Asia activity strives to improve the quality and availability of drug-resistant-TB services by building the capacity of Uzbekistan’s institutions in TB leadership, management, financing, and information systems. The Activity works with communities to reduce TB stigma and provide comprehensive support services to TB patients to ensure successful treatment completion.

Last updated: May 26, 2022

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