Members of Parliament from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha pledged to drive political, administrative, and technical solutions to address specific barriers affecting tuberculosis (TB) prevention and care in India.
“Parliamentarians Meet towards a TB-Free India” was recently organised to sensitise them on the TB situation in India and the urgent need for action. The meet was jointly organised by Central TB Division, ministry of health & family welfare (MoHFW), government of India (GoI), The International Union against TB and Lung disease (CTB-The Union) and IAPPD in New Delhi.
The parliamentarians pledged, “Let us not remain silent spectators to the loss of human life. We should come together and do all that is possible to make India TB-Free.” They committed to work towards ensuring better TB detection, treatment, patient care and support in their constituencies through civil society organisations. Advocacy efforts in parliament and media will also form part of their commitment focused on seeking more resources for TB management, greater accountability from the government on matters such as new drugs, cost of treatment, improved diagnostics and patient support.
The dialogue was chaired by Prof. P J Kurien, deputy speaker, Rajya Sabha and attended by Pradeep Bhatacharya, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Anurag Thakur, Majeed Memon, Baishnab Parida, Bhupinder Singh, Narayan Lal Panchariya, Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu, Shadi Lal Batra, Madan Lal, Avinash Rai Khanna, Viplove Thakur, Mabel Rebello, Xerses Sidhwa, deputy director, health office, USAID India, Manmohan Sharma, executive secretary, IAPPD, Dr. Jamie Tonsing, regional director, The Union and Kavita Ayyagari, project director, Challenge TB.
Narrating successful experiences from advocacy efforts of HIV/AIDS programme, Prof. P J Kurien emphasised on the need to increase awareness on TB and related issues. He further added, “We can achieve the goal of a TB-Free India only if coordinated and concerted efforts are made by all the stakeholders viz. Government, CSOs, Corporates and most importantly, the public at large.” To this Anurag Thakur said, “We must gear up to eradicate TB. Besides efforts for TB treatment and care, it is equally important to work against the stigma surrounding TB.”
Thakur also stressed that financial support be provided to TB patients and their families because the disease also affects their livelihood to a great extent. Shanta Ram Naik said that investment in TB is beneficial for the progress of the country and efforts should be made to fund/ support research in faster and efficient TB diagnostics and treatment.
Majid Memon said, “The data shared today is an eye-opener and TB needs to be prioritized. When Polio can be eliminated, why can’t TB?” Baishnab Parida said, “Poverty makes people more vulnerable to TB infection. Should we wait to eradicate TB till poverty gets eradicated?” “Early detection is most important to eradicate TB,” said Madan Lal. Avinash Rai Khanna urged the parliamentarians to adopt villages and organise free medical check-up camps to raise awareness on TB and proactively screen TB patients.
Dr. Sunil Khaparde, DDG TB, Central TB Division, MoHFW highlighted the government’s efforts in TB control and said, “Under the End TB Strategy we are aiming to reduce deaths from TB by 95 per cent, a 90 per cent reduction in TB incidence rate and to ensure that no family incurs catastrophic cost for TB treatment by 2035.” Dr. Khaparde also appealed more resources to enable RNTCP meet these ambitious goal.
At the event, Deepti Chavan, a MDR-TB survivor, shared the challenges of undergoing MDR-TB treatment for six long years. She urged the parliamentarians to advocate for more fund allocation/ support for research in new diagnostics (which are faster and can test drug sensitivity upfront) and new drugs. Social and nutrition support for MDR-TB cases besides counseling to help them complete the treatment is the need of the hour.