Published in Indian Express | By Abantika Ghosh |On January 14, 2018
UNDERLINING INDIA’S commitment to end TB by 2025 — five years before the global target of 2030 — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written to all chief ministers and asked them to hold “at least” quarterly reviews of the tuberculosis (TB) control programme in their states.
“It is incumbent upon us to address this challenge in a mission mode. I request you to kindly review the the progress of the programme at least every quarter and closely monitor key performance indicators like case notification (including from private sector), treatment success rate, active case finding and HR vacancy,” Modi wrote in the letter dated December 14.
Last year, India unveiled the TB strategic plan towards elimination of the bacterial infection by 2025 — Modi had earlier announced that India will eliminate TB before the global deadline. India has one of the highest tuberculosis burdens in the world.
In his letter, Modi highlighted the gravity of the situation through some numbers: “There are about 29 lakh new TB cases every year and about 4.20 lakh people, mostly poor, are estimated to to die annually on account of TB, leaving lakhs of children orphaned. Economic loss on account of TB in India is estimated to be about Rs 20,000 crore per annum. We cannot allow such human tragedies for a disease which is treatable and for which drugs and diagnostics are available in the public healthcare system.”
According to the TB strategic plan, “TB kills an estimated 480,000 Indians every year and more than 1,400 every day. India also has more than a million ‘missing’ cases every year that are not notified and most remain either undiagnosed or unaccountably and inadequately diagnosed and treated in the private sector.”
Due to the missing cases, under-diagnosis and incomplete treatment, leading to drug resistance in TB bacteria, the Central government made TB a mandatorily notifiable disease in 2012. That is why the country registered a 37-per cent jump in TB cases between 2013-16, according to the latest WHO TB report.
Reiterating the 2025 TB elimination goal in his letter, Modi talks about the daily drug regimen launched under the TB control programme some time ago, the universal drug susceptibility testing to tackle resistance early and the active case finding in vulnerable groups and cross reference between TB and HIV. TB is known to be an opportunistic infection that strikes when immunity of the body is low, that is why AIDS patients report very often with TB.