Tuberculosis to be eradicated by 2025

Nov 25: “The fight against TB needs to be made into a Jan Andolan, a people’s movement”. An effective communication strategy is needed which would focus on reaching the maximum population; complement with preventive, diagnostic, and curative aspects of TB management; work towards demand generation; ensuring regular high visibility mass-media coverage; and also focus on community ownership and mobilization.

This was stated by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare as he chaired a meeting with the various developmental partners working in the field of TB care and management in India. The Union Health Minister urged for a joint collaborative platform where all the partners could join hands and forces together in the elimination of Tuberculosis by 2025 from India. The meeting also served as a platform to highlight the main areas in which advocacy by all national and international organizations would help the country in its fight against TB. 

He also highlighted the importance of strong political and administrative commitment from all States/UT Governments. “Partners can take a lead in galvanizing political commitment from the various political leaders locally”, he pointed out. The Development Partners can also support the program in verification of claims made by the States etc, for TB Free status.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated that there is also a need to address stigma in a huge way as it is one of the biggest barriers and hinders people from coming forward for reporting the diseases and availing of the treatment.

The Minister also urged the Developmental Partners to champion and be involved in community-led monitoring to get real-time information about the challenges on the ground level, and feedback from the people on what is working and not working.

Dr. Vardhan expressed his gratitude for the hard work put in by developmental partners in various public health efforts including that of Polio and Tuberculosis. Recalling from his polio eradication experience, he stated, “Every challenge poses an opportunity. It wasn’t easy to eradicate polio in a populous country like India. But with the firm determination of all the stakeholders, India managed to eradicate the disease, and the polio eradication program became a model for other countries to follow.”

The Health Minister said, “The support of all the partners is critical in eradicating the Tuberculosis. The country is relentlessly fighting the pandemic for the last 11 months. But even at a time when COVID is taking prioritized attention, we should not lose sight of the goal to eliminate TB by 2025. We have continued to focus on Tuberculosis and every meeting for COVID has had TB as an agenda item”.

Sharpening the focus around the elimination of TB from the country by 2025, Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated that “We are running against time. Advocacy and engagement are a way to move forward.” He added, “The country has achieved significant success in the last two years under the “TB Harega, Desh Jeetega” campaign that targets to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target related to TB by 2025, five years ahead of the global target of 2030.”

The Union Health Minister stated that there is an 18% and 12% increase in case finding under National Tuberculosis Elimination Program in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The private sector has also played an important role in TB notification. There is a 77% increase in the private sector notification from 3.8 lakhs in 2017 to 6.8 lakh in 2019. Over 2018 and 2019, commitment has been received from 15 States and UT for Ending TB by 2025. COVID has caused a setback for which some measures are implemented to make up for it.

Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, (Health) noted that the aim is to leverage the capacity of UN agencies, international bodies, NGOs and all other partnership to work toward eradicating the disease. All partners should collaborate to strengthen the exisitng diagnostic and lab facility, treatment facility, patient support system and communication that needs to be built around the strategy. The convergent action will lead to achievement of the goals, he stated.

At the end of the meeting, Dr Vardhan urged every stakeholder to actively participate in TB elimination program to enhance their efforts in this direction to make this dream a reality. He noted, “We need to develop synergy among partners and to devise a mechanism where there is no duplication of efforts.”

Sh Vikas  Sheel, Additional Secretary, MoHFW, representatives from World Health Organization, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) , Asian Development Bank (ADB), UNICEF, UNAIDS, International Union Against TB and Lung Diseases (The Union), W. J. Clinton Foundation, IQVIA, FIND India, World Health Partners (WHP), Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT), Global Health Strategies, Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India (SAATHII), Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Global Coalition of TB Activists (GCTA), Global Coalition Against TB (GCAT), Global TB Caucus, Tata Trusts/ India Health Fund (IHF), HIV Alliance India, CARE, Indian Medical Association, Indian Academy of Paediatrics, Population Services International (PSI), John Snow Inc (JSI), FHI 360, JHPIEGO, Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), Abt Associates, IPE Global, Humana People to People India, REACH, Alert India, World Vision India, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), Piramal Foundation, Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT), Plan India, Medanta Hospitals were present in the meeting.