Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

Why does TB not make news?

with 8 comments

It’s an old disease!  We’ve done too much on TB!  This doesn’t work for us!  TB?  But there’s no reader interest, give us something on AIDS orphans!  These are just some of the reactions I’ve got in response to my dogged pursuit of media houses to publish more stories on TB.

The disease may be old but so what? It’s still taking lives.  Consider the figures. TB kills about 900 people per day in India, or about two people every three minutes. And each year there are 99,000 cases of multi-drug resistant TB. Nearly five percent of the incident cases there are HIV-positive (David Bryden, Centre for Global Health Policy). TB is easily curable and yet, it hasn’t gone away.  TB is not just a disease; it is debatably a much greater social problem than HIV, considering that it spreads with greater ease as it is airborne and has strong linkages to poverty, lack of hygeine, malnutrition and ironically enough, even progress.

Before the brickbats hit me, let me explain.  The causes for the spread of TB are too many to go into in a short blog so I’m staying with just one of them.  Progress has brought with it a churning among people as it were and like never before, we have rurals migrating to cities in droves  in search of better lives and occupations.  It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to determine what quality of lives awaits them in cities.  Equipped with little more than a will to work and earn, what they get in return for leaving their homes and occupations (largely farming), is more poverty than they were used to, dismal living conditions and thereafter, vulnerability to diseases such as TB.  More often than not, all they get by way of living spaces is dingy tenements in densely populated slums; a factor that is hugely conducive to the spread of TB.

India has recorded 2 million new cases of TB in 2009.  Isn’t it important to know why these cases occured?  Isn’t it important to know who these 2 million are and what conditions they are living in?  Isn’t it important that TB is the leading cause of death among Indians between the ages of 15 and 45—the most productive age group, and causes the country a staggering US$3 billion in economic losses each year?  Isn’t it important to do something about the fact that out of an estimated 1.3 million people who died worldwide of TB in 2008, India accounted for 2.8 lakh lives? If not for anything else, in our scramble to stand up and be counted as an economic superpower, isn’t it important to fix the issues that can actually impede our run to the winning post?  Just as a self-serving, selfish move, shouldn’t we be ensuring we have a healthy population before we fall out of the race?

What better way can there be than to start talking about it?  Telling the stories?  Forcing the powers that be to sit up and think?  Is the media listening?   TB is an old disease but it has the power to scuttle big plans and ambitions that India has for itself…

Bharathi Ghanashyam

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

January 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Posted in TB and Media

8 Responses

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  1. More than two billion people, equal to one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. One in every 10 of those people will become sick with active TB in his or her lifetime. People living with HIV are at a much greater risk.
    Do we still need a reason to talk TB????

    Dr Anand Das

    January 5, 2011 at 10:47 am

  2. You’re so right Dr Anand. How many more people before we wake up?


    January 5, 2011 at 11:14 am

  3. In Tribal remort area people are suffering from disease Tuberculosis without proper care ,treatment & advice . they are also infected other innocent in their community. The Tuberculosis affected tribal people are loss their mandays to affect the family income which was affected the daily livelihood of the family .


    January 10, 2011 at 11:19 am

  4. As a person who has had experience of TB, I am concerned that not enough notice or education on the bacteria is provided or shared. Of course, I had the vaccination at aged 14 years, but even at that I became infected. No one in my family had the bacteria and it was never found as to where I contracted this. Neither had I travelled. A common question asked but not always the right one. It took year and half before I had correct diagnosis partly due to doctors wrong diagnosis. I experienced later rapid weight-loss with other parts of my body affected. A diagnosis Acieties, etc.
    It is important to understand that although the UK is not one of supposedly third world countries experiencing poverty or lacking to other industrial countries, that TB exists in the UK and is no respector of persons.


    February 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    • I’m sorry to hear of your experiences. I am told by doctors and experts that diagnosis of TB is a huge challenge as we do not have absolutely accurate diagnostic tools even 125 years after the disease was discovered. I do hope this gap is addressed in the coming years. In the meantime, I wish you all the best and take care of yourself! Sorry I cannot address you by name as your email id does not reveal what it is.


      February 21, 2011 at 3:01 am

  5. Congratulations to you for winning for this article.. very nicely written and We will act together.. we will eradicate TB.. poverty cant be removed so soon, but atleast awareness with help of media people and funding can make a difference.. !!

  6. I think that anyone who knows the story of one person who has struggled with TB knows everything they need to know about why it is important – about why it is news.

    Still, I am continually shocked at how little attention it gets, at how hard we have to work to protect financing for research and development and treatment. Someone yesterday noted to be that we need to get better at sharing our absolute outrage that this is allowed. I do not know why other diseases are perceived to me more compelling than TB. What I do know is that sometimes we share too many numbers instead of sharing the stories of the fight of our patient activists — some of the most powerful speakers I know are patient activists on TB! Perhaps you could interview some of them for your blog? I think we would all benefit from continuing to connect with their stories. @bouchane


    October 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

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