Ashot receives medical attention from UMCOR’s Mobile Medical Team. Because the exams and treatment are free of charge, they are within reach of persons who might ordinarily go without health care.
By Narine Vardapetyan*
March 14, 2013—In Armenia, the number of tuberculosis cases is continually on the rise, so preventing TB is a very important part of the Prevention of HIV/AIDS, STIs, and TB project I oversee for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Armenia. Our project emphasizes identifying early signs of the disease and seeing a doctor as soon as symptoms appear in order to help patients get the best results from treatment.
Laura (not her real name) is one of UMCOR’s community health volunteers and actively participates in health trainings. A teacher at a village school, Laura is always looking for resources such as posters to help her promote a healthy lifestyle among both teachers and students.
She also tells her colleagues and pupils about the health services provided by UMCOR’s Mobile Medical Team (MMT). She encourages them to take advantage of the services, which allow them to be examined and treated free of charge. Thanks to her efforts, many people have been diagnosed and successfully treated by the MMT.
The Mobile Medical Team is composed of three UMCOR staff doctors who visit a series of Armenian villages on a monthly basis according to a previously agreed upon schedule. It is focused on counseling, testing, referral, and follow-up for persons at risk of TB, STIs, and HIV/AIDS.
Last October, Laura’s brother, Ashot (not his real name), returned home from Russia, where he had been working for eight months as a seasonal migrant worker. Laura noticed that he looked wan and exhausted and thought it was probably because of the long trip home.
A week later, though, she visited her brother again, and again she noticed that he looked sick. Laura learned that Ashot was coughing all the time and had a fever. He refused to go to a doctor, however, saying that his friends would ignore him if they knew he had health problems. He feared they wouldn’t include him in their group when they got ready to depart for seasonal work the following year.
Laura spoke to her brother about risk factors and symptoms of TB infection. She suggested he take advantage of the UMCOR Mobile Medical Team, where he could get quality confidential medical assistance without leaving the village. The next day, she brought him UMCOR’s brochure on tuberculosis, told him about the MMT’s visiting schedule, and made an appointment for him.
Ashot and Laura arrived at the ambulatory medical unit in the village on the appointed day. The team’s TB specialist examined Ashot carefully. Suspecting TB infection, she ordered a sputum analysis and X-rays to confirm the diagnosis, explaining everything to Ashot along the way. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, Ashot was directed to the TB clinic, where he received a four-week, in-patient course of treatment. When he returned home, he continued the therapy under the observation of local health staff and the TB specialist of the MMT.
One Good Turn Deserves Another
Ashot’s friends who had worked with him in Russia visited him at home. They found him looking well and refreshed. He told them how happy he was to learn about the UMCOR project, his timely visit to the MMT doctor, and the professional assistance he received. Two of the friends instantly admitted that they had had similar symptoms: cough, weakness, loss of appetite. They had avoided going to a doctor, hoping instead that they would get better soon. Ashot gave them the UMCOR brochure and told them about the MMT services.
As a result of that conversation, seven members of Ashot’s team visited the TB specialist of the Mobile Medical Team. She examined all of them and suspected one of them had TB. That person was directed to the TB clinic for further examination.
In addition, the MMT doctor provided health education to all seven of the friends. She explained possible risk factors for TB infection, means of transmission, common early signs, and ways they can prevent TB. She also suggested they undergo voluntary counselling and testing for HIV. All seven agreed to the voluntary counselling, and three were tested.
Ashot’s friends were very satisfied with the services they received and promised to modify their behavior and be more careful in the future. They also promised to tell their friends about the great opportunity UMCOR’s program provides to their community and encourage them to visit the MMT for a check-up.
Thanks to UMCOR's Mobile Medical Team in Armenia, many people there who might not otherwise seek treatment are being diagnosed and receiving care for tuberculosis and other illnesses. Sunday, March 24, is World Tuberculosis Day. Read more about this still deadly illness.
You can help put good health and abundant life within reach of more people in Armenia by supporting UMCOR projects there such as this one. Your gift to Armenia Emergency, UMCOR Advance #250225 will make a real difference.
*Narine Vardapetyan, manages UMCOR’s Prevention of HIV/AIDS, STIs, and TB project in Armenia.