India has the highest number of tuberculosis in the world, accounting for about a fifth of global incident cases per year.
Patients’ not completing their treatment is a major obstacle in controlling this infectious disease. A common reason of patients discontinuing their treatment is the side-effects of the drug, which prevents them from working. The other factors are: significant financial burden to many patients and their families in India primarily due to death; loss of work and income; costs of diagnosis and treatment. Patients in India, the majority of whom are poor and breadwinners of their families, can benefit by receiving aid in form of financial support, enabling them to complete the treatment while they are not at work.
On the 29th of March, 2014, our fight against TB got further recognition as two of our IMPACT project partners in the field- Shri Gautam Roy and Shri Gautam Majumdar-became the winners of the TB Champion Award 2013 in the individual category. This award is supported by Dr Madhukar Pai Associate Professor, McGill University and Global Health Strategies to recognize, individuals and organisations who have done outstanding work for TB control; care and support for patients. This contribution in the field is categorized and facilitated as TB Champions of the year.
Gautam Roy and Gautam Majumdar are former Panchayat leaders, who have been associated with CARE’s IMPACT project, since 2010. The Initiative to Manage People Centered Alliances in Control of Tuberculosis (IMPACT) was a five-year project (2008-2013), funded by USAID, Child Survival and Health Grants Program This project was to support TB patients to complete their full course of treatment, so as to reduce morbidity and mortality due to TB, multi-drug resistant TB and TB-HIV co-infection in the state of West Bengal in eastern India.
One of the project’s components was to link indigent TB patients with already-existing government welfare schemes to enable patients to complete treatment. The Government of India provides social welfare schemes to those below the poverty line. Welfare schemes include cash transfers, food or employment. Local self governments, called Gram Panchayats, were the conduits through which such schemes are disbursed. The Gram Panchayats provided aid to all TB patients through welfare schemes and support, which included hot meals three times a week, uncooked rice, employment, transportation to appointments, and/or medicine to manage side-effects of the drugs. The outcome is that compared to before the initiative was implemented, a greater proportion of patients are completing their treatment.
Gautam Roy and Gautam Majumdar were a part of these Gram Pachayats that fought relentlessly against TB. We would like to congratulate both these leaders and wish them courage in their continued fight against this deadly disease.