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Archive for September 2018

Pleas from the ground

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The timing is very ironic and it saddens me. When the world has gathered today at the UNGA for Journalists against TBthe first ever UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on the fight against tuberculosis to accelerate efforts in ending TB and reach all affected people with prevention and care, I got this appeal from the ground. It came from a frontline worker who is engaged full-time in helping TB patients complete their course of treatment and get back to normalcy.

This frontline worker (I am keeping this gender-neutral in order to protect the identity of the person) told me about three patients, who are hopeless to the extreme and who might just end their lives. Hailing from low-income families, living in a remote small-town of India, they are the sole bread-winners of their families. They

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Photo taken on the field by the author. Used here for representative only.

are depressed, on treatment for TB and one of them, who is on treatment for DR TB has infected several others in his family, many of them children.

 

So, what’s the objective of doing this piece when expectations and hopes are running high at the UNHLM? It is a plea from the ground but it is not based on facts and figures. I don’t have any to quote. I just have an anecdotal narrative as told to me by the frontline worker. But it is also true that but for this person, the incidents would not have come to light.

Some questions beg answers and hopefully Calls to Action at the meeting. The patients are obviously depressed. Did depression bring on TB in these patients? Did TB and its implications on their lives make the patients hopeless enough to give up treatment and progress to DR TB? Are we sure the problem will be fully addressed unless these aspects are taken into account? Are they getting the best treatment possible? I’m not talking drugs for TB alone. When doctors can see depression in a patient, does it not make sense to treat them for it? I am told the nutritional support promised to them by the Government of India reaches them well after the treatment period is over. What use is support when it is no longer needed? Who is to address these gaps? Who is accountable?

I speak for the young man who has infected all the children of his family who are now on treatment. He feels his life has no purpose. Who can convince him that is not true? It is undoubtedly the frontline worker because he trusts this person as do others like him. So why is this frontline worker not at the UNHLM to direct a spotlight on the learnings the person holds, which can make a vital difference to people on the verge?

This frontline army we have on the ground can reveal the TB situation as it is on the ground. It is they who can show the warts, the blemishes, the gaps and help design the solutions. They can add strength to the case for support. They need to become a part of the conversations around TB in India. It is still not late. Let’s get them in.

That is my ask from the UNHLM so that these young patients who are on the brink can be put on their feet again. India demands this, the annonymous sufferers of India deserve this and people at the UNHLM, who have worked tirelessly to bring TB to the attention of the world can also add this to the asks. I hope that a lot of good comes out of the UNHLM.

Bharathi Ghanashyam

The views expressed here are mine alone.

 

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

September 26, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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