By Ananya Mukherjee:
Fever, night sweats, appetite loss, fatigue followed by chest pain and coughing of blood. Do these symptoms sound familiar? Indeed, not in an urban home but sadly, in rural families in India they are. These are symptoms of none other than the epidemic tuberculosis. According to WHO Report 2009, in 2007, there were an estimated 13.7 million chronic active cases, 9.3 million new cases, and 1.8 million deaths, mostly in developing countries.
Tuberculosis is one of the three primary diseases in poverty-stricken areas along with AIDS and malaria. Earlier it was sheer ignorance that led to late diagnosis and not so effective treatment. And it being an air borne disease, it spread speedily. Currently, there is a huge stigma factor attached to it. Although awareness is ruling out several myths and misconceptions attached to tuberculosis, discrimination is still faced by patients at large.
In the year 1961, the first TB programme was launched by government of India to take a control over this rapidly spreading disease in the name of National TB Programme (NTP). But due to some of the shortcomings in this programme, the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was established in 1993 based on Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS) which was internationally recommended strategy to treat TB. It was launched in 1997.
As tuberculosis accounts for maximum deaths, some of the facilities that are provided in rural India to combat this disease are:
1) Free of cost treatment with DOTS
2) Timely follow up
The Anganwadi workers and female volunteers along with the support of NGOs are helping in creating mass awareness and are reaching to the interior of villages to educate them and help them.
The RNTCP programme has turned out to be very effective. A recent file study showcased the plight of the families affected by TB. A 22 year old mother had contracted tuberculosis which affects the spinal cord. A daily wage earner where daily earnings accounted to not more than Rs. 100 a day, an alcoholic husband, two infant kids and she was advised bed rest as she could barely move.
She refused to stay at her own place as her parents too were poor and was scared that her husband would go and marry another woman considering her immobile condition for years to come. What could the helpless mother do? This is the story of almost every fourth home in rural India.
The tuberculosis control program is showing success and it is estimated by WHO that tuberculosis will be under control by 2015. Looking at the success rate of this program more donations from government and other donors can be attained so that the TB stop programme can put a full stop to TB.
Image source: http://www.wortundtat.de/wortundtat/en/tuberkulose.php