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Health ministry initiates community support plans for TB patients


The health ministry is working on an initiative—called Nikshay Mitra— that will allow individuals to adopt Tuberculosis patients and look after their nutritional and medical needs in a bid to break the stigma surrounding the disease in India.

The ministry has created a digital platform on a public-private-partnership on which anyone in India can register themselves.

“The idea is to destigmatize the TB diseases and it can be done only by community support, better treatment and care for TB patients by adopting them. The health ministry is planning to launch this massive campaign on Nikshya Mitra in mission mode in the coming days to sensitize people. So far 5,900 individuals have notified themselves as Nikshay Mitra. This way they can also provide nutritional support, education and counselling to TB patients,” said a health ministry official.

At 2.5 million patients, India has the world’s highest TB burden.The government aims to eliminate the disease by 2025. Although a preventable and treatable disease, stigma remains a big challenge in India. According to a government report, covid-19 had a major impact on the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) because patients either stopped visiting or couldn’t visit hospitals due to the pandemic and lockdown.

Last year, India witnessed a 19% increase from the previous year in TB patients’ notification—the total number of TB patients (new and relapse) notified during 2021 was 1.93 million as against 1.62 million in 2020. “The Nikshay Mitra can choose nutritional, diagnostic, vocational and additional nutritional supplements support. Besides this, they can choose the duration of support ranging from one year to three years. They can also choose the state, district, block, health facilities. The district TB officer will facilitate the process of becoming Nikshay Mitra,” said another health ministry official.

According to a health ministry TB prevalence survey (2019-2021), the worst-hit states are Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Chhattisgarh.

Dr Vikas Mayura, head of respiratory medicine department at Fortis Hospital said: “Yes definitely, there is stigma among TB patients in our society. If a person suffers from TB, other individuals stop going nearer to the patient, they don’t take care of them. And in female stigma is very higher.

“They hide the disease because of the apprehension that their daughter will have difficulty in getting marriage. This is an excellent move to accept TB patients and we need to educate people. Also, co-morbid TB patients are most vulnerable to fatal risk. We also need to tell people that India has standard medication for TB and it is curable and continue to take the complete course of treatment.”

Last year, the data was captured for 72% of total notified patients, out of which 7% admitted to alcohol usage. Similarly, out of the 74% of the known tobacco usage among all TB patients, 12% of TB patients were reported to be tobacco users. Among those screened, 30% were linked to tobacco cessation services.

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