GUWAHATI, March 24 - On the occasion of World TB Day today, over 180 �TB survivors and champions� from over 140 districts across six states of the country pledged to end stigma related to TB.
Speaking at several national, State and district-level meetings, the �TB champions� while sharing their experiences as to how they could defeat TB, reaffirmed their commitment to supporting India�s efforts to eliminate tuberculosis.
During the World TB Day observation in Guwahati, TB champion Kushal Patowary said that they could see TB in a different light because �we have been victims of discrimination ourselves. It is high time we stood together against the stigma related to TB in our society. Our duty is to motivate others affected by TB through our stories and experiences. We need to convey the message that treatment is available for TB, which is a curable disease.�
The TB champions organised rallies and sensitisation meetings where they distributed body stickers with anti-discrimination messages.
Through the campaign, TB champions called on key stakeholders and community members to take a pledge to not stigmatise or discriminate against anyone with TB.
The awareness drives involved the participation of Panchayati Raj Institutions, schools, local self-help groups and the community at large.
At the centrally organised function of World TB Day by District Health Society, Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) and State TB Cell, Assam, at West Guwahati State Dispensary, Dr NJ Das, Additional Director (Special Programme)-cum-State Programme Officer of RNTCP, urged all government and private healthcare providers, partner organisations and NGOs to intensify their activities to support the �End TB campaign� in Assam.
He said that World TB Day, falling on March 24 each year, was designed to enhance public awareness to identify all TB patients and ensure their treatment.
On the occasion, all districts of Assam organised school students sensitisation programmes, rallies, awareness meetings and street plays to spread awareness about RNTCP.
Dr A Deka, Nodal Officer of Tobacco Control Programme, attending the programme as special guest, urged all TB patients of the State to restrain from using any kind of tobacco products.
She appealed to all not to consume any tobacco products, which might cause deadly diseases like TB and cancer.
Dr Rajib Saikia, Chief Medical Officer of Railway Hospital, Maligaon, said that World TB Day was being organised to commemorate the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis � the TB bacillus.
He assured the commitment of the Railway Health Department to support TB elimination in the State by 2025.
�Swasthyaa App for Private Providers� � a technology platform supported through a software interface to track/monitor private TB patients in real time, was also launched by Dr NJ Das in the presence of Principle Investigator of the Swasthyaa and Associate Professor of IIT Guwahati, Dr Keyur Sorathia.
Dr Sorathia said that now onwards all private providers and hospitals would be able to use the app free of cost to track private TB patients so that they could support their patients to complete their treatment.
The role of nurses for TB elimination was highlighted by Jayalaskhmi, Principal of Army Institute of Nursing, Basistha, Guwahati.
The TB survivors and champions have an important role in ending the stigma and discrimination related to TB. Since 2017, through the TB Call to Action Project, REACH, an acronym for Resource Group for Education and Advocacy for Community Health, has trained over 300 TB survivors though capacity-building workshops and mentorship programmes in partnership with the respective State TB cells and with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The World TB activities are organised in keeping with REACH�s mandate under the project. Through this project, REACH prioritises two interconnected aspects of India�s response � strengthening and supporting the community response to TB and advocating for increased financial, intellectual and other resources for tuberculosis.
Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are priority states for the project.