A curious debate involving individual rights and the limits of state authority is unfolding in Kyrgyzstan. International donors and local policy makers are wrestling with the idea of whether Bishkek can compel people with tuberculosis to receive treatment – even if they don’t seek it.
Tuberculosis is a highly contagious, airborne bacterial infection that attacks lung tissue and it has wrought havoc in Kyrgyzstan since the Soviet Union’s collapse two decades years ago. Containment efforts have grown more problematic of late with the appearance of multi-drug resistant (MDR) forms of the disease. Currently, Kyrgyzstan ranks among the top-10 countries worldwide for MDR TB, according to the World Health Organization.
To confront the problem, Bishkek wants to build a prison-camp-like facility for forced treatment in cases where contagious patients refuse medical help. But privately, international donors, who fund 100 percent of the country’s anti-tuberculosis drugs, are concerned about the initiative’s civil rights implications.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.