Bulgaria: Fighting sexually transmitted diseases

  • International staff: 2
  • National staff: 5 Much of MSF's work in Bulgaria has targeted the dramatic rise in cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV the country has experienced over the last decade. In February 2000, the organization opened an STD clinic within the University of Sofia. A pilot program for managing STD cases according to international standards, the project promotes patient confidentiality, counseling, and partner tracing. The clinic has had about 100 consultations a month, and MSF expects the number of people served to grow as information on the clinic reaches more people. In Bulgaria, prevailing STD treatment protocols have often been long and costly. In 1999, by leveraging its position distributing penicillin to a dozen hospitals country-wide, MSF successfully pressured the Ministry of Public Health to adopt new protocols promoting syphilis treatment on an outpatient rather than inpatient basis. The drug distribution program itself was phased out over the last year. In addition to its work in Sofia, in fall 1999 MSF set up a small clinic in the northern Bulgarian town of Targovichte to serve the Roma (Gypsy) population. Social ostracism has caused many Roma to lack confidence in the official health system. The clinic offers consultations and social support and distributes basic items such as soap, sugar, beans and cooking oil to a community of about 5,000 people. MSF has been working in Bulgaria since 1997.