Worldwide, tuberculosis remains one of the leading infectious causes of death. The fear and stigma associated with this disease leave a lasting imprint on families and communities, especially so in less developed countries. My project is about people whose lives were upended by tuberculosis. Over the past seven years I have photographed patients in prison-like wards in Uzbekistan, drug users in Ukraine, nurses in Russia, families in South Africa and USA.
As an aid worker I came to Chechnya in Russia in 2008. I visited several tuberculosis clinics. That was the first time I came across the disease, so close. Over the next seven years I have traveled to other post-Soviet countries, to South Africa and across the Hudson river to New Jersey – to photograph this slow disease. Treatments take months of daily medications, debilitating and painful, often in prison-like clinics, with fear and stigma prevailing over common sense.
This airborne infectious disease is easy to prevent, so here in the US it is forgotten; often doctors misdiagnose it because they have never come across tuberculosis before. But in the former Soviet Union and in Africa tuberculosis is everywhere. Because of the HIV epidemic, poverty and population growth vulnerable people become even more vulnerable. Tuberculosis is a major cause of death, sickness and social marginalization in women and children. I have seen very little change in the past few years. Still, I want those individuals in my photographs to be heard, they are not statistics, not forgotten victims.