Delhi, India:In the run up to World TB Day, a gathering of Members of Parliament, from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, cutting across party lines today committed to making TB control a priority in their constituencies. TB still causes nearly 800 deaths each day in India. India also has the highest TB burden in the world, with one fifth of the world’s patients right here in India. World TB Day falls on the 24th of March, every year.
Among the MPs attending were Dr. Kirit Solanki, Lok Sabha MP, BJP, from Ahmedabad, Viplove Thakur, Indian National Congress, Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, Vasanthi Stanley, Rajya Sabha MP from DMK. All three are also members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. Also attending was Dr. Charles Dias, Indian National Congress, Lok Sabha MP from Kerala. They were speaking at a gathering convened by Global Health Advocates India in partnership with Project Axshya.
Dr. Kirit Solanki, Lok Sabha MP, BJP, from Ahmedabad, Vasanthi Stanley, Rajya Sabha MP from DMK and Dr. Charles Dias, Indian National Congress, Lok Sabha MP from Kerala all signed a pledge to, “ commit my efforts to fight Tuberculosis and to ensure that no one in my constituency is prevented from getting the correct diagnosis and treatment for Tuberculosis.”
After hearing about the problems people face going to a treatment centre to avail of medication, Dr. Kirit Solanki, Lok Sabha MP, BJP, from Ahmedabad further said “We have to go to the people.” Elaborating on this he said that he is ready to explore the possibilities of allocating a grant from the MPs constituency fund for mobile dispensaries to go to the community directly for TB medicine under the DOTS programme. India provides TB treatment in the form of Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) through the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP). Responding to a request from Svend Robinson, Canadian Parliamentary Representative to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria( the world’s largest grant making body for these diseases) on the importance of launching a caucus on TB within Parliament to create greater awareness among political stakeholders about TB,Dr. Charles Dias, Indian National Congress, Lok Sabha MP from Kerala, also said they are ready to support TB awareness initiatives in whatever way they can. Currently, the MPs funds across India add up to a massive, estimated 4,000 crores, which can be used to create awareness about this deadly disease.
The MPs were responding to the situation analysis presented at the gathering by Dr. Sarabjit Chadha, Project Director of Project Axshya and review of the challenges ahead by Dr. Ashok Kumar Deputy Director General (TB), Central TB Division of the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Ashok Kumar, Deputy Director General (TB), pointed out that the current annual budget (2012-2013) has doubled the allocation to fight TB from 400 crores in 2011 to 2012 to 710 crores in 2012 to 2013. Currently, the Government of India is in the process of launching the next phase of the Revised National TB Control Programme( RNTCP) called RNTCP 3, which will run from 2012 to 2017, starting April 1, 2012.
Dr. Bobby John, Executive Director, Global Health Advocates India, elaborated the roadmap ahead saying, “The challenge from now on will be to ensure everyone gets high quality diagnosis and treatment, both from the public and private sectors, and that there will be no treatment interruptions or dropouts whatsoever. This would require more human resources to be committed to TB control at the district and sub district levels by state governments and political leadership that supports this effort at those levels.”
The meeting was also attended by civil society representatives and other stake holders who spoke on the challenges of TB care and control in India. India provides TB treatment in the form of Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) through the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP).
India has made enormous progress in the past 10 years to control TB. It has reduced mortality numbers by half since 2001, and has ramped up diagnostics facilities 4 fold to 12500 centers in the country over the same period. These achievements have been recognized with a doubling of the TB program allocation in the 2012-13 budget presented last week in parliament.
ABOUT Global Health Advocates India
Global Health Advocates (GHA) India is a non-governmental organization that focuses on engaging all sections of society to fight diseases that disproportionately affect people living in poverty, and are also causes of people living in poverty. In particular, Global Health Advocates India works towards the formulation and implementation of effective public policies to fight disease and ill health in India. GHA India is a partner of The Advocacy to Control Tuberculosis Internationally (ACTION) project, an international partnership of advocacy organisations working in 9 countries (India, USA, Canada, UK, France, Japan, Australia, Zambia and Kenya.)to mobilize political will and resources to treat and prevent the spread of tuberculosis (TB), a global disease that kills one person every 20 seconds.
About Project Axshya
Project Axshya (meaning 'free of TB') was launched in April 2010 as the civil society component of a five-year project funded by a Round 9 grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (The Global Fund). The principal recipients of the overall US$199.54 million grant are the Government of India, The Union and World Vision India (WVI). While the government is focusing on scaling up access to MDR-TB diagnosis and treatment, The Union and WVI are leading the civil society component 'Project Axshya' engaging all sectors to strengthen TB care and control in 374 districts across 23 states of India, reaching some 750 million people by 2015. The project is being implemented through sub-recipient partners in respective states.
For more information on Project Axshya, please visit www.axshya-theunion.org .
Paarul R Chand, Brightlite Communications, +91 9811426392