India: TB activists start monthly meetings to resolve issues faced by TB patients

Mumbai: With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic causing a setback for the country’s programme to eliminate tuberculosis (TB), non-government organisations (NGO), TB activists, survivors, and officers will hold a meeting every month to discuss the needs and challenges of its treatment in the country.

In their first meeting, which was organised virtually on April 30 and attended by over 60 participants from across the country, anti-TB crusaders emphasised the need to involve survivors in government programmes, conferences, and policymaking to bring down the cases in India.

Ganesh Acharya, TB survivor/TB-HIV activist, who was part of the meeting, said the aim behind starting a monthly meeting with all stakeholders of the TB programme in the country was to increase community engagement in the programme.

“There has to be a meaningful community engagement. We feel that the TB community- patients and survivors- are not involved in the programme in India,” he said.

Acharya also added that they plan to have a meeting with the survivors, activists, NGOs, and officers once every month.

“By having a regular monthly meeting with all stakeholders and the community, we can address various issues like stock-outs of drugs and testing tools, access to treatment, etc. We can create an informal TB group to address day-to-day issues faced by TB patients like delays in getting the nutritional allowance of 500 under the Nikshay Poshan Yojana which is deposited every month into the patient’s account,” said Acharya.

Meera Yadav, a TB survivor who also runs a TB peer support group said, while in Mumbai, there are TB survivors who are now working as TB champions and involved in the city TB programme as counsellors, in the rest of the country, the active participation of the community is still missing. “The platform will help more interaction between the stakeholders and the community. We would like health departments to involve the community as we are aware of the day-to-day issues,” she said.

Speaking about the recent National TB prevalence Survey India (2019- 2021), Acharya said there is no decline in overall TB deaths and numbers in the country. “The prevalence of pulmonary TB infection among the surveyed in India was 21.7%. National TB Elimination Program (NTEP) needs close follow-up of patients completing treatment for early detection of recurrent TB and plan interventions for preventing recurrence of TB,” he added.

Blessina Kumar, CEO of the global coalition of TB advocates, who was also part of the April 30 meeting, said, “In the last two years, the attention and focus were only on Covid-19. Now, we have to shift our focus to TB and the monthly meetings will help in getting our concerns heard. We attempt to solve issues faced by TB patients and see that our recommendations are also heard and incorporated in the TB programme.”

She said at the present, emphasis on health education by various means and strategies is required for improving the symptom awareness among the general community to improve the healthcare-seeking behaviour and thereby prevent the further spread of TB. NTEP needs close follow-up of patients completing treatment for early detection of recurrent TB and plan interventions for preventing recurrence of TB. It also needs to prioritise scale-up of molecular test and chest X-ray screening under program conditions for increasing the efficiency of case finding and early diagnosis of TB,” said Kumar.

Source: Hindustan Times

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By Somita Pal

Published: May 13, 2022, 12:42 p.m.

Last updated: May 17, 2022, 11:44 a.m.

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