Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

Activism in TB Control – the momentum is slowly gathering

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Posted below is a news report that appeared in The Times of India a few weeks ago. It talked about the shortage of drugs and sputum collection cups at several TB detection centres in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In response, JATB has learnt that civil society partners of Andhra Pradesh under the partnership of TB Care and Control in India met on 2 February 2013 in Hyderabad to discuss the issue of shortage of Streptomycin injection , sputum containers and some of the relevant issues to improve the TB situation in the state. The partners drafted a memorandum and decided to submit it to the Commissioner , Health, Principal Secretary, Health, Director Health Services, Director (NRHM) and the State TB Officer signed by all the partners. A full report from Citizen News Service (CNS) is available here.

What is noteworthy here is the momentum that is gathering around activism in TB Control – an element that was sorely lacking in the sector. The connections that are building up between the media, the activists, the system and action thereafter – these are signs that we will surely see a difference in the way TB control happens in India. And that undoubtedly can mean spell good for the multitudes suffering from TB and in need of treatment and other forms of support.

Shortage of drugs, sputum cups hit TB control

By Bushra Baseerat, TNN | Jan 24, 2013, 04.05 AM IST

HYDERABAD: Shortage of drugs and sputum collection cups at several TB detection centres in the state has led to the state tuberculosis control programme going haywire in Andhra Pradesh during the last six months, doctors said.

Shockingly, experts said there are several instances when patients were turned away due to non-availability of sputum collection cups, which is essentially a sterile specimen container.

Doctors at state-run hospitals concede during the last six months, there is acute shortage of the streptomycin injection. The drug is used for patients who are not responding to the primary drug regimen. “Around 20% patients are failing on primary drug regimen and they require these injections. In the state, around 50,000 patients would require it monthly as per rough estimates,” said a senior chest specialist.

As per available estimates, the multi-drug resistant TB cases in AP are as high as 12-17% of the total caseload. TB prevalence in the state is 258 per 1 lakh population and annually 1.2 lakh new cases are added every year in the state-run facilities alone.

While the central government claims there is no dearth of funds for TB but due to the short supply of this injection, patients can still infect others after the primary drug regimen as they develop resistance. “It is a free programme and all the drugs need to be supplied by the government,” doctors said.

At least four times, Chest Hospital supplied the sputum collection cups from funds received through donations to the DOTS Centre located on its premises but how long will the hospital do that, questioned a doctor adding that since Sepetember 2012, the post of state TB officer is lying vacant.

The headless body, doctors said is adversely impacting the TB control programme in the state.

Experts said the primary aim of the programme is to cut down the transmission rate but before diagnosis itself 8-10 people are getting infected.

The delay caused by health professionals at DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course) Centres and hospitals due to non-availability of drugs and other needful items like sputum collection cups is further delaying the treatment leading to more people getting infected.

Every one minute, one TB patient is dying in India and now, MDR cases too are shooting up.

They attribute the rise in MDR TB cases to poor follow-up of patients. “It is due to lack of supervision that the Multi Drug Resistance (MDR) cases of TB are on the rise. If the primary treatment is appropriate, these cases will not rise,” said another specialist.

Absence of trained persons at the DOTS Centres is making matters worse, doctors say. “Without compassion, the programme will not work. When we are able to control HIV, why not TB? There have been number of complaints that DOTS Centres supervisors are demanding money. Medical officers posted at these centres are not working properly,” said a doctor.

“The thousands of crores the central government is pumping into the Revised National TB Control Programme are helping only the programmers but not the patients,” said a senior doctor. He added that there is an urgent need for an amendment that only trained medical officers with diploma in TB are posted at these centres.

State health officials when contacted said that the streptomycin injection is in short supply in the entire country and states have been asked to purchase locally. “Earlier the supply was in bulk from the central government but now, the respective district heads have been asked to purchase,” said an official.

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

February 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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