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Posted On : 23 Mar, 2017  Source : PTI  Place : New Delhi 
Ignorance, poor reach major problems in TB treatment: experts
The increasing rate of tuberculosis (TB) cases in India is due to a lack of knowledge and limited access of treatment for patients living in tribal areas, experts have said.

"Lack of knowledge in general population along with social inequities has been a major reason for increase in number of TB patients in India. The limited reach to vulnerable groups like Adivasis, slums and orphanages who are scarcely covered in the health system further exacerbates the problem," says Rita Prasad, technical specialist at Health, CARE India on the eve of World TB Day.

During the Union Budget address last month, the government of India announced its plan to eliminate TB by 2025, however, experts say the programmes initiated by the government have not been able to reach the marginalised sections.

Dr V Sam Prasad, Country Manager of AIDS Healthcare, says the tribal community is at the maximum risk of TB, but the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme has been able to achieve only a limited success due to the inaccessibility of certain geographies.

"Tribal areas make up for a significant percentage of unreached population, which is evident from the government program's limited success. The accessibility of TB services is still a major concern in certain geographies. Hilly areas, owing to their difficult terrain, have poor accessibility. This results in a significant population lagging behind in receiving timely intervention," says Prasad.

According to Dr Vikas Maurya, poverty along with negligence serves as a dominant factor in rapid increase of TB patients. Maurya, Senior Consultant of Respiratory & Interventional Pulmonology at Fortis Hospital, says TB has also become more common in HIV patients.

"We have seen an increased ratio of TB becoming common in HIV patients. It further deteriorates situation for such patients who are in rural areas. Increased awareness in schools and special programs can majorly help to detect the disease at early stages which most of the people are not aware of," says Maurya.

The doctor says that the new guidelines that have been made for testing and screening for TB can help in eliminating the disease.

"As per the standards of today, many changes have taken place. TB has been declared a modifiable disease and it is mandatory now for every physician and the hospitals including private ones to notify the disease to the district/state TB centers or authorities.

"Drug resistant TB is now more effectively treated. In my opinion, if all of these standards are taken care of the day is not far that we will get rid of tuberculosis," he says.

Along with registering an increase in the number of TB cases, according to the Global Tuberculosis Report 2016 by the World Health Organisation, India also accounts for "one fourth of the global TB cases".

"Number of TB cases in India have jumped from 1.7 million to 2.8 million in 2015. India also accounts for one fourth of the global TB burden with 2.2 million out of 9.6 million total cases," says the report.