Tuberculosis (TB) is one of India’s severest health crises. Yet, it remains widely misunderstood and public perceptions remain shrouded in misconceptions. Moreover, despite affecting a large number of Indians, it remains highly stigmatized. There exist several myths about TB in India. Here is a list of myths that many believe about this disease. This photo essay debunks these myths with an aim to improve public understanding and to ensure that a TB patient is not discriminated against. TB kills an Indian every minute and we cannot tackle the disease until we improve public awareness and understand the disease, holistically. Because, in the end, TB does not discriminate – it affects us all.
FACT: TB is definitely curable. In fact, effective TB medication has been available since the 1950s. If treatment is correct and completed, most patients are able to recover fully and lead normal lives.
FACT: Not all forms of TB are infectious. TB can occur in many parts of the body other than lungs, including bones, spine, hip, brain, bladder and the reproductive system. TB of these parts is non-infectious. Only approximately one-third of TB patients, primarily those who have TB of the lungs, are infectious. However, within one to two months of undergoing appropriate treatment, many patients become non-infectious.
FACT: TB has nothing to do with genes nor does not it run in families. TB is caused by an airborne bacteria which primarily attacks the lungs and can affect anyone. In fact, it is estimated that about one-third of the world’s population is infected with the TB bacteria, and not the TB disease. As you read this, you may already be carrying the TB bacteria though many of you may never get it due to your immune system and its strength.
FACT: TB affects the rich and poor alike. While it is true that poverty is an important risk factor for TB, the reality is that anyone can be affected no matter how socio-economically well-off they are. Transmission of TB bacteria is through the air and hence no one is immune to the disease. That TB affects only those who are poor is incorrect.
FACT: Not all kinds of TB lead to infertility. For instance, pulmonary TB, which is TB of the lungs, is not a cause of any infertility. However, if the TB bacteria attacks the uterus or the genitals, then it may lead to infertility. Women are often discriminated against because they are TB survivors. This has no factual basis.
FACT: People often associate TB with HIV. While it is true that those who are HIV positive are at a higher risk for progression to TB disease once infected; there are many other conditions which predisposes one to a weak immunity and thereby TB disease. Those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, organ transplants, head and neck cancer, those on medical treatments such as corticosteroids, specialized treatment for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease, silicosis, can also have a weakened immunity.
FACT: Blood tests are not a reliable way of diagnosing TB. In early 2012, the Government of India banned the use, distribution, manufacture and sale of blood tests to detect TB infection. This is because blood tests are inaccurate when it comes to diagnosing TB. So, next time you visit a doctor with a TB diagnosis, ensure that you are not subjected to any blood tests.
FACT: No. Absolutely not! Sex has nothing to do with TB. TB is airborne and is not transferred via body fluids. You can’t get TB from either sexual intercourse or kissing. However, if your partner has a persistent cough, then its better to get a checkup. Also, if your partner is getting treatment for TB you can have sexual intercourse with him/her. A TB patient who receives regular treatment does not spread the disease, especially through sex!