A feminist perspective

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Tuberculosis (TB) is more than mere treatment. TB has a human face which I realized when I myself went through it twice in my life. More so now, as I work with Vihaan Care & Support program implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance where I deal with various TB related queries from the program sites. In Vihaan every person living with HIV (PLHIV) is screened for TB though Intensive Case Finding methodology as per WHO guidelines. Screened positive cases are then referred to ART center for CBNAAT tests and followed up till the treatment is initiated and regular monitoring has been ensured by the field staff of Vihaan periodically.

On 11th March 2018, I attended the End TB summit in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi where the honorable Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi reaffirmed his government’s commitment to End TB by 2025. This is a very ambitious goal for India.

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 & inadequately diagnosed and treated in the private sector. India is world’s second country with the highest tuberculosis infection every year.

Tuberculosis is the leading infectious cause of death in women worldwide. It is the third cause of morbidity and mortality combined in women of reproductive age in developing countries like India and leads to more deaths in women than maternal mortality. The gender disparity and the socio-economic circumstances in India add to the vulnerability of women to TB.

I was shocked when one of my colleagues who is infected with TB shared her experience that she was asked by her family members to keep quiet and hide her TB status during the matrimonial process. She was instructed to not reveal that she has TB or else no one might marry her and she may remain unmarried all her life. She was told that her qualifications or profession will not help and her image in the society will be tarnished if her experience with TB is exposed. She should not disclose her TB infection irrespective of the profession or industry she is in. If disclosed she will be discriminated by the peers at the work place and sometimes even by the family members and neighbors, due to fear of getting infected with the disease.

As we all are mostly aware that lung TB or pulmonary TB can be contiguous in initial four to six weeks of infection but after taking continuous treatment it can be controlled. Also, not all types of TB can spread by air but this awareness is limited in our society.

On a positive note, on behalf of people living with HIV and communities affected by TB we are thankful to the Government of India who has announced the Ayushman scheme in this financial year which will provide Rs 1000 to each TB infected person for the nutrition support because nutrition plays a vital role to cure TB along with the treatment.

TB India 2017 – Central TB Division – Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

The author of this blog is Mona Balani, Programme Officer: Care & Support Vihaan Programme and is associated with India HIV/AIDS Alliance

Alliance India