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On 24th March, the world Tuberculosis Day is observed every year to commemorate Dr Robert Koch’s discovery of the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis (TB) called the TB bacillus. This day is also observed to create public awareness amongst people around the world about the deadly epidemic, Tuberculosis and eliminate it completely.
Even though several measures have been taken to eliminate TB, it continues to be one of the major health hazards that kills millions of people throughout the world. The WHO data suggests that in 2015, around 10.4 million people fell ill with TB and 1.8 million died from this disease. Furthermore, over 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
In India, TB continues to be one of the major health challenges that needs to be tackled on an emergency basis. Between 2012-2017, the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme screened over 42 million individuals and more than 7 million patients were administered treatment. This has been made possible because of early intervention and the use of advanced technologies for diagnosis, treatment and care of TB.
Government of India has launched several initiatives to combat TB by bringing together all the important stakeholders. On the eve of World Tuberculosis Day 2017, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare launched Bedaquiline, the new anti-TB drug for Drug Resistant TB. He also released the TB India 2016 Annual Report and the Technical and Operational Guidelines for TB Control in India 2016. These guidelines are mainly focused on managing all varieties of TB; introducing more patient centric approaches; and setting up a single-window care for patients suffering from both HIV and TB. Two other e-books were also launched- A handbook for ‘Healthcare Worker surveillance for TB in India’ and Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Adverse reactions associated with anti-TB drugs. Furthermore, a new radio campaign and a social media campaign was also launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
India’s Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) has been one of the most important and successful programmes in eliminating TB through proper surveillance, monitoring, screening and treatment. The main focus of the government has been to provide quality treatment to the patients suffering from TB by developing new tools for diagnostics and new research.
However, the road is long as there is urgent need for better infrastructure and increasing investment. The government has been intensifying its efforts towards TB treatment and prevention that would help India in completely eliminating the deadly disease of TB. The New Health policy 2017 of the government not only aims at providing healthcare in an “assured manner” to all, but also acknowledges the need for increase in the level of public financing for health. One of the major goals of this policy is to Achieve and maintain a cure rate of above 85 percent in new sputum positive patients for tuberculosis and reduce incidence of new cases, to reach eliminated status by 2025
Hence active case detection, with a greater involvement of private sector is the need of the hour. This can further be supplemented by preventive action in the workplace and in living conditions and access to free drugs. Affirmative action on these lines would ensure that the treatment is carried out properly.