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While Russia denies its citizens adequate drug treatment, thousands of young people die every year from tuberculosis and endanger the lives of others

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January 31, 2010 at 11.00 a press conference “Ineffective Drug Policy promotes the spread of tuberculosis in Russia” will be held in the House of Journalists. This press conference is devoted to highlighting obstacles to effective tuberculosis treatment in our country. We will bring to your attention results of studies in seventeen cities in Russia conducted by the Andrey Rylkov Foundation For Health and Social Justice in cooperation with the project “Simona+“.

Tuberculosis is a curable disease, however due to deficiencies in the healthcare system in Russia, the death rate from tuberculosis in 2009 was 16.5 per 100 thousand population. The Russian Federation occupies the 11th place in the world in absolute number of new cases of tuberculosis, and the third place after China and India by the prevalence of tuberculosis.

People with comorbidity of HIV, tuberculosis and drug dependence, represent one of the most vulnerable groups, in terms of prevention of tuberculosis and mortality. This study showed that in 2009 50 to 86% of all patients living with HIV and tuberculosis were drug dependant people. Extremely high mortality associated this treatable disease was observed in this group, and in three cities tuberculosis mortality reached 100% among patients receiving inpatient treatment. Level of premature termination of treatment is very high; termination of tuberculosis treatment leads to the development of drug-resistant tuberculosis. An average of 41%, and in some cities up to 100% of TB patients with comorbidity of HIV and drug dependence failed to complete their tuberculosis treatment.

Such high level of mortality and premature termination of treatment suggests that the system of medical care does not meet the needs of patients. In particular, effective substance abuse treatment for patients undergoing both inpatient and outpatient treatment does not exist. Substitution treatment with methadone and buprenorphine, included in international standards for treatment of tuberculosis and HIV for drug dependant persons, is prohibited in the Russian Federation.

“The fact that Russia does not provide access to substitution therapy drug dependant persons, has tragic consequences – says Ivan Javoronkov – Head of the organization “Chance +” from Ekaterinburg. – Patients can not tolerate long-term treatment in hospitals or in outpatient services, lose contact with medical institutions, drop out of tuberculosis clinics, thereby jeopardizing their own lives and the lives of others”.

The rapid spread of tuberculosis in Russia is connected to the criminalization of drug dependant persons. Today in Russia prisons are the main source of the disease – because of severe overcrowding, lack of basic hygiene and sanitation, poor infection control and the low level of medical care.

“A lack of adequate drug treatment in Russia results in imprisonment of many people, like myself, for nonviolent drug related crimes, while all these people could work, study, raise children. – Says Irina Teplinskaya, a drug user with experience of undergoing HIV and tuberculosis treatment. – Prisons are a source of tuberculosis, especially for people living with HIV whose immune system is weakened: I and hundreds of my friends contracted TB there. “

The study was conducted in January – November 2010 in 17 cities of Russia with support from the Treatment Preparedness Coalition and the International Harm Reduction Development Program of the Open Society Institute. The study aims at formulating recommendations for improving assistance for people with comorbidities of HIV, tuberculosis and drug dependence.

The following experts will participate in the press conference:

• Anya Sarang, President of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation For Health and Social Justice, Moscow
• Evgenia Maron – Project Coordinator, “Simona+”, Foundation “Astra”, St. Petersburg
• Irina Teplinskaya – Staff member, Andrey Rylkov Foundation For Health and Social Justice, Member of the Steering Committee of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network from Russia, Kaliningrad
• Ivan Javoronkov – Head of a self-organization of people living with HIV, “Chance +”, Ekaterinburg

This press conference is organized with support from the Levi Strauss Foundation.

The press conference will take place on January 31, 2010 at 11:00 am.

Address: Moscow, Nikitskiy Boulevard, 8 “A” (Marble Hall of the Central House of Journalists) (Subway station “Arbatskaya”)

Contact person from the organizers:
+7 926 155 87 99 – Tatiana Ivanova, Project Coordinator, Andrey Rylkov Foundation For Health and Social Justice

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