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Tuberculosis

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.

 

TB 1024 21040323 from Michael Friedman on Vimeo.

Grozny, 2008

A lab technician looking through an old microscope at tuberculosis bacteria collected from patients. Ukraine 2011

A doctor prepares a TB patient for an x-ray at a Donetsk clinic. Ukraine 2011

A man waiting to exchange needles and to be tested for HIV in an outreach bus on the outskirts of the city. Intravenous drug users have a very high risk of contracting tuberculosis. Russia 2011

Clara, 27, plays with her son who is also HIV+ South Africa, 2013

A newly arrived patient stares at a hospital worker distributing fish soup while bickering with another patient. Russia 2011

A hospital room for five male MDR-TB patients in a Nukus TB hospital. Uzbekistan 2011

Natasha, 25, a former inmate, an intravenious drug user and a mother of two has tuberculosis and is HIV positive. Russia 2011

Roza, an outreach worker from a small local NGO is still battling her own addiction. To fund her addiction, Roza was a sex worker and spent time in prison. Now she helps others from a similar background, who live with HIV and suffer from a number of other diseases. Ukraine 2011

A group of tuberculosis patients with various degrees of drug resistance have a smoke just outside a tuberculosis clinic in Donetsk.Ukraine 2011

MSF psycho-social support counselor is waiting for her MDR-TB patients - those who live at home and come for daily checkups at the clinic. Nukus, polyclinic No. 2 Uzbekistan 2011

34-years old, a mother of four children was beaten by her husband and her relatives for being sick with TB. Nukus, polyclinic No. 2 Uzbekistan 2011

Man walking away from the tb hospital. 2011, Ukraine

Polina, 37, has just been brought into the hospital severely malnourished and suffering from numerous diseases, including tuberculosis, hepatitis C and HIV. Russia, 2011

Roza, an outreach worker (left), is kneeling across from Katya, 37, who is being treated for pneumonia in a district Donetsk hospital. Katya is living with HIV, uses drugs and possibly has tuberculosis. Her legs are scarred and infected from injections with dirty needles. Ukraine 2011

Having no relatives and no friends left, Oleg, 41, was left to spend his last days in palliative care by himself. His only visitors were nurses and social workers. Uzbekistan 2010

A man waiting to exchange needles and to be tested for HIV in an outreach bus on the outskirts of the city. Intravenous drug users have a very high risk of contracting tuberculosis. Russia 2011

A 19-years old, has XDR-TB. His younger/older brother has MDR-TB and is recovering. Doctors just found out Islambek can't be treated. Their mother died from TB. Nukus, TB hospital No. 2

V is having an animated discussion with his nurse after receiving positive news about his treatment. Newark, USA 2012

A metal basin in a processing lab in Donetsk lists names and blood types of TB and HIV-positive patients. Ukraine 2011

Kolya, 31, an intravenous drug user spent a few years in prison. There he contracted tuberculosis in addition to already living with HIV. He died a couple of weeks later. Ukraine 2011

Konstantin is living with HIV, has hepatitis and drug-resistant TB and uses intravenous drugs. Mariupol, Ukraine 2012

Fundiswa, 34, tells fairy tales to her children. South Africa, 2013

A female patient is X-rayed, Mariupol, Ukraine 2011

A nurse is measuring a tb patients' weight while another patient is cheering on. Russia 2011

A 19-years old, has XDR-TB. His younger/older brother has MDR-TB and is recovering. Doctors just found out Islambek can't be treated. Their mother died from TB. Nukus, TB hospital No. 2 Uzbekistan 2010

Lutango Nompumelelo, 42. washes before going to the hospital. She shares her bed with her son and daughter. South Africa, 2013

Lutango Nompumelelo, 42. struggles to keep balance as nurse weighs her. South Africa, 2013

Dilapidated office of the Head nurse where all equipment is decades old and paint is peeling off. Togliatti Russia 2011

A tb patient and intravenious drug user is begging his doctor for pain medication Russia 2011

A doctor prepares a TB patient for an x-ray at a Donetsk clinic. Ukraine 2011

MSF psychologist holding a group meditation session for MDR-TB patients. Nukus, TB hospital No. 2. Uzbekistan, 2010

At a tuberculosis clinic in a Donetsk suburb a doctor checks Andrei, 46, for signs of life and finds none. A drug user of many years, he died at the age of 46 from HIV-associated drug-related tuberculosis. He had checked himself into the hospital three days earlier. Ukraine 2011

During the early morning rush hour a commuter bus stops next to the tuberculosis clinic in a Donetsk suburb. Most of the passengers on the bus are relatives of inpatients or sick with tuberculosis themselves. Commuter buses in areas with high tuberculosis rates are hot spots for transmission of the disease. Ukraine 2011

The tuberculosis hospital in Togliatti, Samara, in the distance. Russia 2011

Nurse organizing dead patients' files. Togliatti, Russia 2011

Dorothy, 54, has recovered from TB but is unemployed and has given up home finding work. South Africa, 2013