On the occasion of World TB Day observed on March 24th every year, the government launched TB Harega, Desh Jeetega campaign, featuring bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan nationwide to generate public awareness about Tuberculosis. The campaign features Mr. Bachchan as the face and voice of TB prevention and control.
Despite available treatment today TB remains a curse to humanity causing vast socio economic loss. Nearly one-and-a-half million deaths occur globally every year, mostly in developing countries. It commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing discovery of the causative agent of TB, mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Since the inception of the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP), around 19 million patients have been initiated on treatment and almost 3.4 million lives have been saved. The challenges of drug resistant TB, TB associated with HIV and other co morbidities is being addressed appropriately.
The central theme is of “Universal Access” to quality TB diagnosis and treatment with quality assured drugs made available free of cost to all TB patients in the community including those of Drug Resistant, HIV and other co morbidities associated with TB.
The Bollywood superstar, who was unable to attend the event, sent a special message to those present, reaffirming his support to the campaign against a disease he himself had battled in 2000. In a letter to the gathering, Mr. Bachchan said.
“It is a matter of great pride and honour for me to be associated, in my small capacity, with our country’s dedicated efforts towards the goal of a TB-free India. This World TB Day, I urge my fellow countrymen to be more vigilant against the causes and symptoms of the disease, so that we can fight it with greater success…History has shown us that whenever we have stood together to eradicate a disease from our soil, we have done it and I truly believe with our combined might that TB Harega Desh Jeetega!”
The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, Jagat Prakash Nadda said, “I commend the Central TB Division and the National Forum on TB for organizing this event today. It is heartening to see that individuals and organizations from across the spectrum have come together to present a united front against TB. By striving for a Swachh Bharat and a Swasth Bharat, we aim to make a TB-Mukt Bharat.”
Commending the CTD and the NFTB for bringing a diverse range of stakeholders in the Indian TB landscape under one roof, Bhanu Pratap Sharma, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, said, “There is currently a dialogue for cooperation and synergy among a diverse set of stakeholders. We are taking giant steps forward towards addressing one of India’s biggest public health challenges. TB is a disease that threatens and endangers the well-being of all Indians. To be united in the face of this challenge and to overcome it is the true objective of the efforts of all the individuals and organizations working in the Indian TB landscape, towards the common vision of a TB-free India.”
The CTD also launched their revised official website, a user-friendly portal providing detailed information and guidelines on TB prevention and control, followed by the launch of a special issue on TB of the Global Policy Journal.
Acknowledging the growing support for the government’s efforts to contain TB in the country, Dr. Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services, Government of India, said, “It has been a great source of encouragement to see the growing support for the CTD’s efforts to control TB in India. The involvement of civil society, the private sector and celebrities is a great boost to us, as we try and build greater awareness around the magnitude of the TB challenge and the need to fight it together. The “TB Harega Desh Jeetega” campaign is a powerful tool for making sure our message reaches far and wide. I am grateful to all of you who have stepped forward to support us in our march towards a TB-free India.”
Mr. Dalbir Singh, President, National Forum on TB, described the event as a huge step forward.
“TB is arguably the greatest Public Health Challenge facing our country today. If we have to combat this disease which threatens the well-being of our nation and radically destroys its economic potential, we need to develop strategic vision, enhance our political will, learn to innovate and find indigenous solutions, productively engage the private sector, sensitize policymakers, build partnerships & coalitions at all levels and bring about effective synergy, cooperation and coordination between diverse stakeholders”, he said.
Mr. Anurag Thakur, Member of Parliament, BJP and Member, National Forum on TB, said that it was unacceptable for a single life to be lost to a preventable and curable disease such as TB.
“India needs a concerted effort from people from all walks of life to come together and ensure that people know about TB, its symptoms and the free treatment available through government health services. Civil society needs to play a larger role to support the government programme in order to help us reach the goal in a quicker and more effective manner. We need to spread the word that TB is a preventable disease and we cannot let a single life perish because of it. TB Harega, Desh Jeetega!”
“Fighting TB is not just a physical battle but also a mental battle. TB has taught me a lot. It took me 6 years to get cured. I had to undergo two surgeries to get my infected lung removed. Doctors gave me 1% chance of survival and 6 months to live. Having endured so much, I now feel its my duty to talk about my experiences and help patients fight TB. I just want them to not give up. Its my dream to work for the cause of TB which is so close to my heart. I feel patients need the support from their family or if not atleast from the community”, said Deepti Chavan, MDR-TB survivor in one of the rarest of rare cases.