TB DOT program medication at the Chest Clinic (TB) at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Delhi. December 2017. © FIND / Ben Phillips

I feel fulfilled when I see someone cured from TB

Jayanti Mondal, 37, originates from Kolkata (West Bengal). She has been working as a treatment coordinator (TC) with the JEET (Joint Effort for Elimination of Tuberculosis) project for some time. Jayanti, like every other JEET TC, plays a crucial role on a TB patient’s path to recovery. Through steadfast counselling, she helps the patient complete their treatment on time, and more importantly, to avoid interrupting the course. This is Jayanti’s story as a TC with JEET.

“Defeating TB in India is not an easy task. The challenges begin right from the start when the patient begins to seek healthcare. Finding the right doctor to get timely diagnosis and treatment is a task in itself. At times, the patient remains confused about his/her treatment. On average, there exists significant delay in finding the correct TB treatment; delays can fuel drug resistant TB, a more lethal form of the disease. Even when the patient is initiated on the right treatment, the side effects can at times take a toll on the patient’s mental and physical health, prompting him/her to quit treatment. My role is to ensure a seamless continuation of the treatment. I keep the patient updated on the side effects and how to cope with them effectively.

TB in India is associated with deep-rooted stigma, which is based in fear, shame, and guilt. In general, society is receptive to TB patients, but selectively so. A lot of the patients, and even TB survivors, I counsel have had to deal with discrimination and neglect. Discrimination can be influenced by one’s social standing. Society tends to have a more tolerant outlook towards anyone from the middle and upper class who is afflicted with TB. My experience has also shown that stigma can be gender biased. For example, many women from the lower social classes who are infected with TB have been unable to find a husband, or if they are married may have to face divorce or abandonment. Women in India are more heavily stigmatized for having TB. My role as a counsellor takes centre stage in such cases. I am, what is known in India, as an empath, which helps me to connect with the TB patients to whom I give a helping hand. And I think this is a key factor in long term recovery.”

As a TC, Jayanti contacts the patient and family within the first seven days of diagnosis. She ensures that the follow-up test is conducted. Even after the completion of treatment, a part of her job is to ensure that a final test to determine full recovery is done. “It’s a lot of hard work, you know. But in the end, it is so gratifying. I feel fulfilled when I see a cured TB patient.”

More on the JEET project.