A group of TB survivors in India - Survivors Against Tuberculosis (TB) - has urged the government to urgently strengthen its initiatives to tackle TB in the country by making TB care patient-centric, accessible and affordable.
In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister's Office and the Health Ministry, the group has also demanded that the government engage sufficient TB survivors to enhance policy-making on key issues relating to the disease.
‘India accounts for an estimated 2.2 million of the 8.6 million new cases of TB that occur each year globally and harbours more than twice as many cases as any other country.’
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India accounts for an estimated 2.2 million of the 8.6 million new cases of TB that occur each year globally and harbours more than twice as many cases as any other country.
In their letter, written earlier this week, Survivors Against TB mentioned some of the measures that can be taken up by the government to control TB such as public awareness within communities to ensure prevention, early and accurate diagnosis, addressing the crisis of drug-resistant TB and providing nutrition and economic support to the TB affected among others.
They also sought creation of a robust health information system for increased surveillance, engaging the private sector and prioritizing changes in TB treatment.
"Surviving TB in India is challenging. The stigma and the lack of psycho-social support to patients and families make it extremely difficult. Alongside there is continuing mis-diagnosis and poor treatment," said Deepti Chavan, a multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB) survivor who is part of Survivors Against TB.
"Ultimately, we need to ensure that every Indian has access to accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment whether they seek care in the public or private sectors," Chavan added.
WHO has also said that a national programme for the control of tuberculosis achieved nationwide coverage in 2006 but this programme has limitations in terms of disease surveillance.
All attempts to estimate the burden of tuberculosis in India are based on indirect methods characterised by substantial uncertainty and a lack of sub-national detail.
"In India, which has the highest burden of TB globally, awareness about Extra Pulmonary TB (EPTB) remains abysmally low. EPTB is difficult to diagnose and there exists confusion about the appropriate treatment channel for it," said Nandita Venkatesan, a 2-time EPTB survivor who suffered hearing impairment due to a rare side-effect of a second-line TB drug.