‘Survivors Against TB’ Urges Prime Minister Modi To Accelerate Efforts to End Tuberculosis In India

‘Survivors Against TB’ Urges Prime Minister Modi To Accelerate Efforts to End Tuberculosis In India

New Delhi, March 15 (TNA) Survivors Against TB (SATB), a community-based collective led by TB survivors, experts, and advocates, has written to the to Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealing to him to address key challenges in TB care and intensify efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB) in India. The letter highlights how despite India's commitment to eliminate TB by 2025, the country continues to grapple with a significant burden of the disease, resulting in millions affected and nearly 400,000 lives lost annually.

As World TB Day approaches on March 24th, SATB underscores the critical need for immediate action and presents key recommendations to address critical areas in TB control. These include the expansion of access to free, accurate, and affordable TB diagnosis, especially in remote and marginalised communities.

An increase in investment in diagnostic facilities, mobile testing units, and access to rapid and molecular testing to ensure timely diagnosis for all individuals. “Challenges such as limited access to diagnosis and treatment, stigma, socioeconomic barriers, and out-of-pocket expenses persist, and are hindering progress in tackling TB effectively even today," says Ashna Ashesh, Public Health Professional, Lawyer and MDR TB Survivor.

Also highlighted is the urgent need for access to free and accurate treatment, high-quality drugs, and shorter regimens. SATB calls for a national fast-track strategy to facilitate easy access to high-quality shorter treatments with reduced side effects. SATB also recommends measures to prevent stock-outs in both public and private sectors. Additionally it suggests comprehensive side effects counselling and management support for those affected.

Stating that proper nutrition and mental health support are essential for TB recovery, SATB recommends increasing support under the Nikshay Poshan Yojana to at least Rs. 2000 per month. SATB also recommends integration of mental health services as vital to addressing the psychological impact of TB diagnosis and treatment. "Addressing the financial and psychological burden faced by those on treatment is crucial. From travel expenses to purchasing drugs during stock-outs, every step counts," says Deepti Chavan, MDR TB Survivor, Patient Advocate, and SATB Fellow.

Stigma-free and gender-responsive care is essential, and SATB stresses the implementation of the Gender-Responsive Framework to ensure inclusive care that addresses individual needs. Focussing on improving overall quality of care, the letter calls for robust quality assurance mechanisms, and regular monitoring of treatment outcomes to ensure dignified care for all. "India has the capacity to make significant strides towards ending TB. We need to prioritise the voices and needs of TB survivors in shaping policies and interventions," adds Chapal Mehra, Convenor of SATB.

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