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Former AFEW employee Natalya Vezhnina awarded Kochon Prize

Dr. Vezhnina (third from left) receiving the prize with other two winners

December 2, AmsterdamAIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) is pleased to learn that its former TB advisor in Central Asia, Dr. Natalya Vezhnina, has been awarded the 2015 Kochon Prize for her highly significant contribution to combating tuberculosis. The prize is awarded annually by the Stop TB Partnership and is meant to support organisations or individuals in continuing their work in combating TB and HIV.

“Dr. Natalya Vezhnina is certainly one of TB’s ‘unsung heroes,’ having dedicated nearly her entire professional life of 40 years to care for TB patients even in the face of adversity. Her activism and professional and personal stories fully reflect this year’s theme,” reads The Stop TB Partnership’s statement.

Natalya was responsible for unlocking the subsequent work to take action against TB deaths in Russian prisons. When the TB death toll at Mariinsk Colony 33 began to soar, Natalya, as chief doctor, went public with a report about the dire conditions. This, in turn, attracted the attention of foreign health organizations, who offered the DOTS solution which began is 1997. 

Throughout her career Natalya has continued to act with perseverance even when exposed to the risks and consequences of severe reprimands by national prison authorities, accused of being too much on the patients’ side. For choosing to intervene for the most diminished, most vulnerable and defenseless – TB patients in prisons. 

Over the years Natalya has left her mark on generations of TB doctors, and medical and non-medical personnel through her humanity and professionalism. She deserves to be recognized for her revolutionary work, and expertise which was brought to the global community, to international meetings and academic centers of excellence, and a global career across a large number of NGOs.

The Kochon Prize of $65,000 will allow Dr. Vezhnina to create a local NGO to combat a deadly emergence of drug-resistant TB and HIV in Kemerovo, Siberia. AFEW sincerely congratulates Dr. Vezhnina with this big achievement and wishes her every success in her work combating tuberculosis in Russia.

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