Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare inaugurated “World Tuberculosis Day” celebrations along with Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, Health and Family Welfare at Dr Ambedkar International Centre, here today.
Dr Vinod Paul, Member Health, NITI Ayog, Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Prof. Balram Bhargava, Secretary DHR & DG ICMR, Dr Roderico H. Offrin, WHO representative to India and other senior dignitaries were also present at the occasion.
Addressing the event, the Union Health Minister said, “India has 30% of the world’s TB cases. Under the leadership of our Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi Ji, we have accorded the highest priority to end tuberculosis by 2025. We have also ensured that the commitments are supported with commensurate resources. Budget allocation for TB in India has witnessed a fourfold increase in the last 5 years. High-quality drugs, digital technology, engaging the private sector and communities, integrating TB services across all levels within the health system, are all aligned to rapidly decline TB incidence and mortality in the country”.
Awards were also given to best performing States/UTs based on their State TBI Index. Lakshadweep (UT) and the district of Budgam (J&K) were declared TB free.
While distributing the medals and certificates to awardees, Dr Harsh Vardhan noted, “This is a historic day for India as one UT and one district have been declared TB-free. This is just an initial step in the direction of a bigger dream of elimination of TB from India. I am confident that next year we shall have more States, UTs and Districts stepping up to the challenge and laying such claims. The last few years have seen the country take definitive steps towards the elimination of tuberculosis from the country. The sustained efforts of the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme have led to an unprecedented increase in TB notifications and significant improvements in timely diagnosis, adherence, and treatment outcomes. It is an encouraging sign and reflects that we now have better access to TB patients and the ability to provide free treatment to patients from both the public and private sectors. Over the past few years, we have significantly ramped up India’s diagnostic capacity for TB and we now have at least one rapid molecular diagnostic facility available in each district and we are aiming to decentralize it down to the block level.
“On this occasion of World TB Day, I call for a “TB Mukt Bharat and ask all of you present here and all citizens of this country to rise to the occasion and make India’s resolve to end TB by 2025 into a Jan Andolan. Let us pledge to march together as one people and truly make sure our country defeats this disease in the next four years”, he said.
Detailing on the success in the front of Tuberculosis in the year 2020 despite the COVID19 pandemic, the Union Minister said, “The year 2020 has seen some setbacks in the direction of treating Tuberculosis but despite the challenges posed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s TB programme saw over 18.04 lakh TB notifications. Encouragingly, post the lockdown period of April-June, by implementing several innovative strategies, we managed to bring the programme to pre-COVID levels and are back on track to ending TB by 2025, in line with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision. When India decides, India does. Indigenously developed cost-effective, point-of-care molecular diagnostic machines (called TrueNAT) were deployed to test for both COVID-19 and TB across the country. Many State/UTs also leveraged the house-to-house COVID-19 screening campaigns and integrated TB as well in the COVID surveillance strategies.”
Emphasizing the fact that how universal availability and access to healthcare can help in proper diagnosis, prompt treatment, accelerating Universal TB Care coverage and preventive services in the country, he said, “We aim to detect cases early and prevent the emergence of new cases of TB by expanding TB care through the engagement of various stakeholders including the community. TB has been made an essential part of Comprehensive Primary Health Care and is now integrated with Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs), the largest comprehensive health care and health protection programme in the world. Our Aatma Nirbhar Bharat model will be at the centre of transforming the entire Indian healthcare ecosystem.”
He further added, “We are working tirelessly to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and regain lost momentum. The experience gained from COVID19 can be replicated in achieving the aim of elimination of Tuberculosis. The scale on which India increased the testing of COVID19 from just a few tests in a day to more than a million tests a day is commendable. We can adapt this experience to enhance testing in TB also. Not only we have administered more than 5 crore doses in our country, but we have exported the vaccines to many other countries also. We have adopted pre-emptive strategies like the integration of TB and COVID-19 bi-directional screening, ramping up laboratory services, diagnostic and treatment capacity upgrades and procedures for co-located testing for TB and testing for COVID-19 (among notified TB patients) at health centres and hospitals to boost surveillance and TB case finding efforts.”
Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey said, “Today, on this occasion of World Tuberculosis Day, I congratulate all of you who are here today to witness this important event. India has made significant efforts in the direction of eliminating TB under the dynamic and able leadership of our Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. I appreciate TB champions who have won their battle against Tuberculosis and are now trying to change society with their efforts. I appeal to all the leaders to make it a Jan Andolan. Today, India is performing better than most countries in terms of COVID19 parameters. This is indeed a result of the successful leadership of our Prime Minister. I am confident that we will be successful in our fight against Tuberculosis also. “
Dr V. K. Paul, Member (Health), NITI Ayog noted, “This is a truly remarkable day. Despite the stress of COVID, the journey to strengthen the efforts of TB continued. COVID19 has taught us many lessons. We have learned to change our behaviour. We have also the de-stigmatised wearing of a mask. This enables us to bring other behaviour change in individual and society.”
Dr Roderico H. Offrin, WHO representative to India said, “The theme of World TB Day this year is ‘The clock is ticking. We must use setback during last year due to COVID19 to step up our efforts to end TB. India has launched a Jan Andolan to end TB and this commitment has been backed by budgetary allocation, infrastructure and resources. The efforts have almost doubled. TB initiatives at the central level have been percolated down to States, Districts, Blocks and Gram Panchayat levels.”
The Union Health Minister and Minister of State, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also released several reports. These are India TB Report 2021, Guidelines for programmatic management of Drug-Resistant TB in India, 2021, a Guidance document on Strategy to End Stigma and Discrimination Associated with Tuberculosis, Collaborative framework for the management of TB in pregnant women, Gender-responsive approach. TB Aarogya Sathi Application for citizens/TB patients was also launched at the event along with iDEFEAT TB Project and Corporate TB pledge. TB Aarogya Sathi Application will be a one-stop solution that will have all the information related to TB.
Five TB champions were also awarded. Two TB champions also shared their stories at the event.
Later this day, Dr Harsh Vardhan addressed an international event organised by WHO to raise awareness against TB through a video conference today. He said, “Tuberculosis continues to be the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Every day 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 fall ill; even when TB is a preventable and curable disease.”
Shri Sunil Kumar, DGHS, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ms Arti Ahuja, Additional Secretary (NTEP), Shri Vikas Sheel, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare were also present at the event.