Anti-TB drive

A year into the treatment, still many Indians find the multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) has failed to bring the much needed respite. It’s failing because treatment is not just about writing prescriptions and giving away free medicines. It’s about curing a disease. It’s about talking to patients to make them understand why they must have the cocktail of highly toxic medicines that may make them feel sicker but will ultimately rid them of the pernicious infection. Several thousand TB patients across India stop treatment because their malnourished bodies cannot cope with the acute side effects, which range from loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, burning stomach to skin rash, jaundice and burning. Not completing the full course of medication which takes at least six to eight months for uncomplicated TB leads to drug resistance, making the infection more difficult to treat. Stopping treatment midway is a major reason why around three lakh people in India die each year from this respiratory infection. Considering that the disease affects a large number of India’s poor due to social, economic and environmental factors, an organisation of survivors, the Survivors Against TB (SATB), has urged the government to extend the benefits under the scheme to all the TB patients, irrespective of whether they seek care from the public or private sector. “This scheme is a step in the right direction. Global evidence has shown that poverty and TB are inter-connected. The group has suggested key parameters for effective monitoring and evaluation of the scheme, including ease of access, utility of the benefit amount etc. TB costs India close to $24 billion each year. As per the WHO (World Health Organisation) TB Report, the disease kills one Indian every minute. The scheme, if implemented effectively, can bring about a drastic change in how India addresses and manages the TB related economic impact and poverty.

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