Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is an infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India is one of the countries with the highest burden of TB in the world. Despite several initiatives and measures taken by the government, there are still significant challenges for TB control in India.
India has set a target to eliminate Tuberculosis (TB) by 2025, five years ahead of the global goal of 2030. To achieve the target, President Droupadi Murmu launched 'Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan' last year. She also launched the Ni-kshay Mitra initiative, which encourages elected representatives, corporates, NGOs, and individuals to come forward to help those on TB treatment and participate in providing additional support to improve treatment outcome by becoming Ni-kshay Mitras.
However, there are many challenges that need to be addressed to achieve this target. Talking to the HealthSite, Dr Prashanth Mukka, Consultant Pulmonologist, Citizens Specialty Hospital, Hyderabad, pointed out some of the major challenges faced by India in controlling TB. These include:
Lack of awareness about TB is one of the significant challenges for TB control in India. Many people in India are unaware of the symptoms and transmission of TB, which results in delayed diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, there is a stigma associated with TB, which prevents people from seeking medical help. TB patients are often ostracized from their families and society, which leads to social and economic isolation. The lack of awareness and stigma associated with TB results in a significant number of undiagnosed cases in India.
Poor Healthcare Infrastructure
Another significant challenge for TB control in India is the poor healthcare infrastructure. India has a large population, and there is a shortage of trained medical professionals, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, the healthcare system in India is underfunded and overstretched, which makes it difficult to provide adequate care for TB patients. There is also a lack of diagnostic facilities and treatment centers, particularly in rural areas. This results in delayed diagnosis and treatment, which can lead to the spread of the disease.
Drug-resistant TB is a severe form of TB that is resistant to the standard TB drugs. According to the WHO, India has the highest burden of drug-resistant TB in the world. Drug-resistant TB is more challenging to treat and requires more expensive and prolonged treatment. Additionally, the treatment for drug-resistant TB has more side effects, which makes it difficult for patients to complete the treatment. The high burden of drug-resistant TB in India is a significant challenge for TB control in the country.
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Co-Infection with HIV
India has a high burden of HIV, and TB is one of the leading causes of death among people living with HIV. People living with HIV are more susceptible to TB due to their weakened immune system. Additionally, TB can accelerate the progression of HIV, leading to more severe complications. Co-infection with HIV and TB is a significant challenge for TB control in India, and it requires a coordinated effort from the healthcare system to provide integrated care for these patients.
Poverty and Malnutrition
Poverty and malnutrition are significant risk factors for TB in India. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, making people more susceptible to TB. Moreover, poverty leads to overcrowding and poor living conditions, which increases the risk of transmission of TB. Additionally, people living in poverty are less likely to seek medical help due to the cost of treatment and transportation. Addressing poverty and malnutrition is essential for TB control in India.
Private Healthcare Sector
The private healthcare sector is a significant challenge for TB control in India. Many people in India prefer to seek medical help from private healthcare providers, particularly in urban areas. However, the private healthcare sector in India is poorly regulated, and there are many unqualified and untrained providers. Additionally, the cost of treatment in the private sector is often higher, which makes it difficult for poor people to access care. The private healthcare sector in India needs to be better regulated and integrated into the national TB control program.
In conclusion, TB remains a significant public health challenge in India. The challenges faced by India in controlling TB are multifaceted, and addressing them requires a coordinated effort from the government, healthcare providers, and society. Improving awareness about TB, strengthening the healthcare infrastructure, addressing drug-resistant TB.