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How Burari beats off social stigma in the fight against TB

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A throat infection led Prabha Shankar, a resident of Burari in north Delhi to visit a physician over three years ago. After visits to numerous doctors, including ayurvedic and homoepathic ones, Shankar was finally diagnosed with tuberculosis in March this year.

The World Health Organization's Global Tuberculosis Report 2014, published recently shows that 9 million people developed TB in 2013, and 1.5 million died, revealing that there are almost half a million more cases of the disease than previously estimated.

The WHO statement also states that around 3 million people who fall ill from TB are still being 'missed' by health systems each year either because they are not diagnosed, or because they are diagnosed but not reported.

"Diagnosis of tuberculosis takes a lot of time and there is still a social stigma attached to it. What we call 'awareness' on this disease, should not be limited to knowing about it but also taking openly about it even if one has the slightest suspicion. We need to convey this from family to family and remove the stigma," says Shankar.

To combat social stigma, poor adherence to drug regimens and interrupted treatment that are the contributing causes for the spread of TB, the Lilly MDR-TB partnership with TB Alert under the guidance of the Central TB Division of India is helping make TB treatment accessible to communities by empowering local healthcare providers in areas where medical care and medicines are not easily available.

One such area where the TB program has shown results is Burari.

"As far as the TB program is concerned, every one lakh population is supposed to have a DMC (Designated Microscopy Center). Since Burari is an urban-rural settlement, earlier there was no facility. The nearest hospital is 11 kms away, which is in Kingsway Camp. So people either wouldn't go to the hospital or buy some medicine from the nearest chemist to treat themselves," says Sunita Prasad, program manager, Lilly MDR TB partnership.

Before commencing on the project Prasad says a survey was conducted and government help was sought.

"We chose areas which were urban slums or resettlement areas. To identify the area, we had a base survey. We understood the fact that there was no health facility around and people had to either lose a day's wage or invest two-three days to actually go and get themselves diagnosed," she said.

"The government also said on the basis of their data that the area was under-served...The findinds alos suggested that the area did not have enough case directions. There were a lot of people who were suffering from TB but not getting diagnosed," says Prasad.

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First Published: Sun, November 02 2014. 12:40 IST