TB Harega Desh Jeetega

Dr Praveen Kumar is a leading private health sector chest specialist based in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India. Here he talks to us about tuberculosis (TB) from a healthcare provider’s perspective and why he thinks the country can effectively eliminate the disease by 2025.

“Diagnosing TB has become more effective, rapid, and accurate with the advent of molecular diagnostics such as the cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification test (CBNAAT) and Truenat. From latent TB infection to extensively drug resistant TB, shorter and safer regimens are now available on the market. Unfortunately, India continues to bear the highest burden of TB in the world, and TB cases, especially drug-resistant TB, have been on the rise in the state of Andhra Pradesh for some time. The reasons for this include poverty, malnutrition, smoking, tobacco chewing, alcoholism, and even the tropical climate to name just a few. India also lacks proper housing with good ventilation and adequate space for the high population density.

Other challenges associated with TB have to do with the treatment. Often patients do not complete their treatment because of side effects from the drugs. Skipping medicines can lead to drug resistance, a more lethal and highly transmissible form of TB requiring longer treatment and having even more severe side effects. Some of my patients ask me to reduce the number of their pills, which is impossible. Patients on TB treatment need intense counselling and support from their families to be able to deal with their illness and treatment. Adhering to the treatment is crucial if one wants to effectively defeat TB and ensure complete cure and recovery. And this, I believe, is where JEET (Joint Effort for Elimination of Tuberculosis) is playing the greatest role.

JEET treatment coordinators (TC) have proven to be indispensable when it comes to counseling and educating patients and their families about TB and the importance of sticking to the treatment regimen. Right from the start, when TB is first diagnosed, the JEET team kicks into action by contacting the patients and their families and sensitizing them about TB. Patient sputum is collected and if the patient appears to be TB positive, he/she is enrolled into Nikshay – the Government of India’s web-based portal to a database comprising all TB patient data from across the country. The TC next visits the patient to carry out treatment initiation and ensures that other tests − kidney function, liver function, HIV, diabetes mellitus, etc. – have been conducted. For doctors like me, JEET has played a tremendous role in ensuring increased notification rates from the private sector.

I believe that India can end TB by 2025. We just need to follow the COVID-19 strategies, i.e., practicing social distancing, using face masks, disinfecting our environment, etc. These etiquettes will help to combat TB more effectively. Let us make India TB free. TB Harega Desh Jeetega.”

More on the JEET project.