World TB Day 2019
Rainbow TB Forum (RTBF) commemorated its 8th World TB Day on March 24 for 2 days to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social, and economic consequences of TB. RTBF, in partnership with Blossom Trust and Cepheid, reached thousands of citizens in 8 blocks of Virudhunagar District. RTBF held social engagement meetings and awareness-raising activities for communities for two days to address the serious issue of TB in local communities. RTBF used an EduClown Campaign, which uses performances as an innovative mode to communicate, educate, and raise awareness about TB and related health issues to onward-looking spectators.
During the hour-long community engagement sessions, 28 TB survivors from the blocks of Virudhunagar took part in addressing TB and its symptoms through retelling their own experiences with the disease. During the 2 days,10,000 fliers were handed out providing a TB disease profile, along with 5,000 pens commemorating World TB Day 2019 and our funding partner, Cepheid. The TB survivors and the 10 EduClown members were able to get 160 symptomatic persons registered with RTBF to ensure future diagnosis and successful treatment. TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and kills more people than HIV/AIDS, but death is not the only concern for those infected with TB. People risk unemployment, face economic hardship, and even face social stigma due to contraction of TB. This discrimination stems from the most unlikely of sources—the primary health centres (PHCs) and general hospitals (GHs).
Due to these constraints, it is not a surprise that a large portion of TB occurrence goes un-notified. People are forced to ignore symptoms and quit treatment. According to WHO, 936,000 cases of TB went unreported in India. “It’s Time…” - the theme of this year’s World TB Day - emphasised the urgency to act now against TB to reduce the level of stigma patients are facing. To create awareness in Virudhunagar District, RTBF started a petition to highlight just this gap in healthcare. Advocates and volunteers collected 1,629 signatures over the course of the program. The petition demands for a decrease in discrimination in accessing healthcare for TB, a decrease in vacancies in key positions of diagnosis, such as lab technicians, and for the government to increase basic economic help for TB patients such as food assistance, health insurance, and subsidised public transportation. World TB Day 2019 banners will continue to be seen across the district. 10 banners have been left up to remind people of the importance of action. RTBF and Blossom Trust will continue to advocate for people in Tamil Nadu with the petition started during these 2 days. The petition will be forwarded to local political candidates to push TB to the forefront of debate in the national elections next month. Politicians and community leaders will hear and see the necessity of TB’s inclusion in future public policy. They will see the importance for TB patients’ rights.