Stop TB Partnership

TB is India’s Ticking Time Bomb say Eminent Citizens

This World TB Day, a group of concerned and eminent citizens have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to make TB control a priority in India terming it as a national crisis.

24 March 2015 - India - The letter is accompanied by a set of recommendations drafted by a group consisting of doctors, civil society organizations (CSOs), epidemiologists and social scientists identifying urgent actions necessary to improve TB control in India. These recommendations are in the areas of public awareness, diagnosis, treatment, drug resistance, information systems and private sector engagement.

The letter signatories include prominent citizens such as Adi Godrej, Industrialist; MS Swaminathan, Scientist and Aamir Khan, Actor who also did a path breaking episode on TB in India last year.

The letter also appeals Prime Minister Modi to provide free and accurate diagnosis as well as appropriate treatment to every sing le Indian regardless of whether they seek care in the public or private sectors. The letter demands the government to renew its commitment of providing Universal Access to Diagnostics and Treatment for All by 2017 as outlined in its National Strategic Plan (NSP) for TB. Extensive delays have resulted in the plan being much behind this target. The letter and recommendations also encourage Departments of Health; Urban Planning and Sanitation to work together on issues of TB prevention and control. Finally, the letter suggests the Prime Minster to create and chair a review committee on TB, which includes all key stakeholders.

The letter is a reminder of the crisis that TB has become in India. The country has the highest TB burden globally with close to 2.2 million new cases each year. Though preventable and treatable, TB kills a 1000 Indians everyday and 3 lakh Indians each year. Most prevalent among the 15-54 age group TB also impacts household income acerbates poverty by pushing families into debt traps and below poverty line. The annual costs of TB to India stand at USD 23.7 billion.

Over the last few years, India has been facing an epidemic of drug resistant TB (DR -TB). In 2012, cases of Extremely Drug-Resistant TB (XXDR-TB) were reported in Mumbai. The treatment for DR -TB is extremely long and expensive with an exceedingly poor cure rate. "The TB patients need support from the government. They cannot wait any more. In this day and age, we cannot let lakhs die from a curable disease" says Deepti Chavan MDR -TB survivor and signatory to the letter.