New Delhi, September 16, 2016: For many years, tuberculosis, and more recently multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), have imposed a significant physical, emotional and economic burden on patients, their families and society. As per the WHO Global TB Report 2015, the estimated number of MDR-TB cases in 2014 among notified pulmonary TB cases was 71,000. MDR-TB patients are put on treatment for at least two years and are required to take approximately 12,150 tablets during the course of their treatment. The strong drugs lead to multiple side effects such as vomiting, joint pains, severe gastrointestinal problems, deafness, depression and suicidal tendencies. Also, stigma and lack of social support are major challenges in treatment completion and hence, increased awareness of the disease can help in prevention, early detection, treatment and care.
In this background, the representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The Union and Rotary National TB Control Committee recently discussed the challenges that the country continues to face and the role that Rotarians can play to make India a TB-Free country.
The discussion focused on how Rotary can play an affirmative role in TB just like it has done in polio through its resourceful 1,35,000 members and 3400 clubs, Youth Rotract and Interact clubs. Rotary representatives from different parts of the country pledged their support to: conducting TB awareness activities on a monthly basis amongst Rotarians; sensitizing the private health sector on the importance of patient awareness and TB notification; and observing World TB Day with local health authorities. Additionally, Rotary Districts and Clubs will regularly share reports with Rotary’s National TB Control Committee on activities conducted, along with success stories and lessons learnt.
Out of every four TB patients globally, one is an Indian. TB survivor Ms Nandita Venkatesan shared her experience and recounted the challenges related to extra pulmonary TB and side effects of TB treatment. She also highlighted the importance of involving TB survivors to help end the stigma, and provide support to patients fighting TB. She said, “It’s high time to shift the spotlight to TB survivors”.
Challenges in TB diagnosis and care include:
- Delay in the time taken to enroll in RNTCP and find the right treatment. An average TB patient is diagnosed after a delay of two months and is seen by three healthcare providers.
- Standardization of treatment. Until 2010, 106 practitioners prescribed 63 different drug regimens to patients.
- Use of inappropriate diagnostics tests which delays the detection of TB.
- Not considering the possibility of co-morbidities.
- Lack of patient counseling on the importance of adherence to treatment.
- Isolation and stigma associated with the disease.
Mr Y P Das, Chair, Rotary India National TB Control Committee, said, “In the past, Rotarians across the country have supported the government, health workers and international organizations to achieve critical goals such as the elimination of polio, and today we reiterate our commitment to end the TB epidemic. I am convinced that with passion and commitment in our fight against the disease, TB will soon be a thing of the past for us.”
Rotary India: a valuable partner, a promising partnership
Rotary India and its members have played an important role in eliminating polio from the country. This included the promotion of polio vaccinations in 2001 of the highest-risk districts for polio. Rotarians monitored routine immunization and organized free medical camps. They also held street rallies and meetings to encourage and motivate healthcare workers. Such a model of disease surveillance, education, collaboration, and care, when implemented in TB management, will help take us closer to the ultimate goal of a TB-Free India..
Dr Sunil Khaparde, DDG TB, CTD, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, commented, “A new chapter has been added to our RNTCP by formally involving the Rotarians. We have achieved the Millennium Development Goals for TB, but are not satisfied because of the large number of people with TB who are dying in the country. There are about 22 lakh TB cases and 2.2 lakh patients are dying each year. Collaboration between all stakeholders is crucial to tackling the growing burden of TB. Rotarians can strengthen our fight against the disease and mobilize action from the community.”
“Tuberculosis takes a significant toll on families and communities, pushing them towards poverty. What we need is active interaction and engagement between government, international organizations, the private sector and organizations that are active in the community. This partnership with The Union and Rotary India has great potential to help the country reach the goal of eliminating tuberculosis by 2030,” said Mr Xerses Sidhwa, Director, Health Office, USAID/India.
As per Mr Jamie Tonsing, Regional Director, The Union South East Asia Office,“Successful polio eradication would not have been possible without support from Rotary. Similar commitment and mobilization of communities is needed for a TB-free India. We have to work cohesively and synergistically with all stakeholders to achieve this goal.”
Ms Kavita Ayyagari, Project Director, Challenge TB, The Union, said, “Our vision of Zero TB deaths, Zero TB disease and Zero TB suffering can only be made possible through a concerted effort by every stakeholder in the country. We are pleased to have the support of Rotary India in this mission and look forward to a TB-Free India.”
The Union South–East Asia is implementing the Call to Action for a TB-Free India under the Challenge TB project. As part of this initiative, The Union will facilitate coordination between the Rotary National TB Control Committee and the Central TB Division and will strive to smoothen the process of implementation of this partnership.