Hagelstein, Cristin Samantha
Meskhetian Turks: Unusual Group of Immigrants
The Meskhetian Turks are an unusual immigrant group because all four who tested positive for LTBI opted to take the preventative medicine. They are unusual not only because they take INH, which is different from most other US immigrant groups (Coreil 2004:64, Houston 2002:257, Ito 1999:1, Shrestha-Kuwahara 2004:529, Yamada 1999:478), but also for the reasons they decide to take the preventative medicine. Similarities exist between other immigrant groups and the Meskhetian Turks. For example, Matthew stated that stress could cause TB, which can be equated to the Vietnamese beliefs that there are psychological and physical causes of TB, and one way to treat psychological tuberculosis is through reducing worries and anxiety (Ito 1999:13). But contradictory to the Pentecostal Eastern European immigrants, the effectiveness of the BCG vaccine and INH’s harsh side effects were not mentioned by the Meskhetian Turks, although each immigrant received the same information about TB from the public health center.
When coming to the United States, instead of becoming self-reliant in their treatment of TB like the Pentecostal Eastern Europeans, Meskhetian Turks embraced the US health care system and TB care. The Meskhetian Turks stated that they were taking the preventative medicine because the US government wanted them to take the medicine. Before coming over the US, the Meskhetian Turks said that they knew very little about TB, except that it was a lung disease. After coming to the United States, being diagnosed with LTBI, and after meeting with the public health department, the Meskhetian Turks still said that they still knew very little about the disease. So the focus of the preventative medicine for the Meskhetian Turks is not fighting the disease, as such is the case of the Pentecostal Eastern Europeans, but instead a trust in the US government and its extensions, the public health department.
In Russia, ethnic Russians believed that Meskhetian Turks had tuberculosis, when in fact many of them did not. This social stigmatization singled the group out from the rest of the Russian citizens. In a country that regularly persecuted certain ethnic groups, being “singled out” by the Russian government was yet another form of Russian persecution of Meskhetian Turks, which is similar to the Haitians living in Southern Florida. Haitians were labeled as a “risk group” by the US government because of the publicity connecting Haitian with AIDS, thus leading to US stigmatization towards Haitians. So for Meskhetian Turks opt to take the preventative medicine because they do not want to be considered a “risk group” by the friendly and accepting US government.