REACH, USAID and Stop TB Partnership Train Survivors in TB Advocacy

New Delhi, April 12, 2017: Tuberculosis (TB) survivors and advocates from India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and the Philippines met in New Delhi from April 10-13 to take part in a first-of-its-kind capacity building workshop.

Organized by REACH, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Geneva-based Stop TB Partnership, the four-day workshop brought together 32 people from six countries who shared personal experiences on TB, documented the societal and systemic barriers they faced, transformed the barriers they faced into concrete advocacy goals and strategies and discussed the power of collective community-driven advocacy to change the status quo in TB.

Participants at the TB Champions Workshop

“The voice of the survivor becomes the voice of India. In TB, there is a dual stigma – one is the disease itself but the other is poverty. This dual stigma can be explained best by the TB survivors. The TB fight is not finished – but survivors will help us get there. TB survivors at different levels can be great ambassadors and pass the message very efficiently so that TB loses, and we all win,” said Dr Sunil D Khaparde, Deputy Director General, TB, Central TB Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, who was the chief guest at the valedictory session.

Speaking at the valedictory session, Xerses Sidhwa, Director of Health at USAID/India, said: “USAID is proud to support this workshop, which helps TB survivors to become powerful agents of change in India and other regional countries. It is critical that we actively engage TB champions in designing and implementing programs and advocating for policy change. Their experiences can guide the way forward as we move toward a TB-free India and world.”

Dr. Nalini Krishnan, Director, REACH, added: “At the core of our work is ensuring that those affected by TB are an integral part of all efforts, extending beyond tokenism. This capacity-building workshop is an important step to achieving a long-term role for trained, committed advocates in policy advocacy, overseeing program and program implementation.”

The workshop addressed issues such as the science and burden of TB, and focused on the need for powerful and effective storytelling. “I lost my father to TB. And a few years ago, I was diagnosed with TB as well and I could never speak about it. It’s a huge burden to suffer alone. That is why this workshop just clicked for me. People wanted to listen to our stories, and I have learnt how to tell my story even better,” said Arun Singh Rana, a TB survivor from India, at the closing ceremony. Another TB Champion,Cherry Florida from the Philippines, said, “I would like to honour REACH for bringing us all together to hear everyone’s stories, it’s really encouraging to come together like this on an international level. This workshop really changed my perspective and helped me look at the broader picture.”

Blessina Kumar interacts with TB Champions

Speaking during the workshop, Blessina Kumar, CEO (I), Global Coalition of TB Activists, one of the lead facilitators for the workshop, said, “The energy brought in by the TB Champions who won the fight against MDR, XDR TB and just TB was palpable. The TB response across the world is missing passion and if we want to End TB in our lifetime, we need their lived experiences, their passion and their energy to bend the curve and win the battle.”

Globally and in South-East Asia, the TB crisis demands a comprehensive response from both government and non-government actors, including the private healthcare sector, business leaders, civil society and most of all, those directly affected by TB—patients, survivors and their families. However, responses to TB have remained top-down and TB survivors, patients and their families have had little or no role to play in the fight against the disease.

“If we are serious about ending TB, engaging those who have experienced TB first hand in a meaningful way is critical,” said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership. “The Stop TB Partnership is therefore delighted to partner with REACH to support the desire of TB Survivors from the South East Asia region to further build their skills to become even more powerful TB advocates and we look forward to continuing our collaborations with other community and civil society partners in the region such as the newly established Asia-Pacific Activists’ Coalition on TB (ACT Asia Pacific) and the regional arm of the Global Coalition of TB Activists (GCTA),” she added.  

The workshop was organized by REACH in partnership with USAID and the Stop TB Partnership. With support from USAID, REACH is implementing the TB Call to Action project in India, which seeks to strengthen USAID’s efforts to end TB in India by advocating for policies and programs that empower patients, caregivers and communities.

Elected representatives pledge commitment to fight against TB in Bihar

Patna, March 24, 2017: A high-profile gathering of elected representatives, public health officials, TB and HIV affected communities and representatives of civil society organizations pledged their commitment to the fight against TB in Bihar at a World TB Day programme held in Patna. This was organized by the State TB Cell, Government of Bihar, in partnership with REACH and the National Coalition of People living with HIV (NCPI+).

The oath-taking was led by Shri Krishna Nandan Prasad Verma, Honourable Minister, Public Health Engineering and Law, Govt. of Bihar. Shri Shyam Rajak, MLA Phullwarisharrif, Shri Neeraj Kumar, MLA Graduate Constituency, Dr Ravindra Yadav, MLA Jhajha Jamui; Shri Nitin Naveen, MLA Bankipur, Patna; and Shri Vinod Narayan Jha, Member Legislative Council also participated.

Speaking on the occasion, Shri Verma extended his support in the fight against TB, saying, “Earlier TB was considered a deadly disease and we thought no one would survive. Now we know there is treatment available. We need to work more especially in the rural areas of the state. Let us try to reach the unreached population, the homeless and the poor”.

Shri Neeraj Kumar, MLA, called on all departments to work together, noting the need for nutritional and social support for those affected by TB. “We need to link social welfare schemes to the TB programme”, he said. Shri Shyam Rajak MLA Phullwarisharrif, declared his commitment to work towards a TB-free Bihar. “Just as we eliminated small pox and other deadly diseases, we can defeat TB as well if all of us work together”. Shri Vinod Narayan Jha MLA spoke of the stigma associated with the disease.

State TB Dr (Maj) KN Sahai briefly described the TB programme in Bihar.  Shri UN Vidyarthi, Chairman – Bihar TB Association; Dr SK Akela, Addl. Project Director-BSACS; Dr VK Singh, Director TBDC; and Dr Kailash, Regional Director RHO also participated.

With over 1,300 deaths per day, TB continues to be a grave public health crisis in India. The New National Health Policy re-emphasizes India’s commitment to eliminating TB by 2025, reducing deaths, suffering and catastrophic costs related to the disease. “Through the Call to Action project we are implementing in Bihar, REACH will amplify and support India’s response to TB by involving previously unengaged stakeholders and broadening the conversation around the disease,” said Ms Smrity Kumar, Project Director, TB Call to Action.

REACH and NCPI+ partnered to observe the World TB week, with events held from 20-24 March including a rally, street plays, drawing and quiz competitions and a poster exhibition.

REACH honours Women Champions for their Role in Fighting TB

Chennai, March 23 2017: On the eve of World TB Day, REACH honoured Women Community Volunteers for their relentless efforts and contribution to the fight against TB. As many as 120 Women TB Advocates were felicitated at the “Empowerment of Women to End TB” programme organised in Chennai.

TB is a curable disease but those diagnosed with the disease need continuous support through the treatment period. “When it comes to health, women are leaders in the community and within their families. On World TB Day, we wanted to thank the women volunteers for their services to the community and by doing so, encourage them and others like them to continue their efforts”, said Dr Ramya Ananthakrishnan, Executive Director, REACH.

Women play an important role as caregivers, not just for their families, but also for the community. Encouraging women to work towards tackling the challenges of TB control can help create a healthy, TB-free society. The women volunteers have been involved in accompanying people with a cough to the TB care centres, providing information on TB, encouraging people to go for a TB test, monitoring the treatment of patients, and motivating patients and their families.

Dr. Veera Kumar, State TB Officer, Tamilnadu released a Tamil publication ‘Sadhanai Pengal’ which revolves around 20 women champions, who have played leading roles in the fight against TB. Dr J Lavanya, District TB Officer, Chennai; Dr Jaya Shreedhar, public health and communications consultant; and Dr Raja, WHO Consultant all participated in the programme.

Several awareness sessions were organised for the community volunteers who participated in the meeting. Dr Uma Ram, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Seethapathy Hospital, Chennai spoke about women’s health in the broader sense, focusing on the importance of regular health check-ups, self-examination for breast cancer and routine pap smear.

For these women, taking on TB does not come without the stress of being on their toes round the clock and dealing with patients from different backgrounds. Therefore Ms. Jacqueline David, Counsellor, TTK De-addiction Centre, Chennai was invited to the event to talk about Stress Management.

The REACH team also hosted sessions, touching upon issues ranging from Health Seeking Behaviour of Women, Challenges in Diagnosis and Treatment, Women and Stigma, Challenges as a Caregiver, and Challenges in Engaging in TB Care Services.

World TB Day is observed on 24 March annually to increase awareness about Tuberculosis among different communities and groups to motivate them to come together and work for TB Control more effectively.

Sand Artist Sudarshan Pattnaik Carves Commitment to Unite Against TB on World TB Day

Bhubaneswar, March 24, 2017: On World TB Day 2017, three eminent Oriya personalities – musician Padma Shri Prafulla Kara, sand artist Padma Shri Sudarsan Pattnaik and actor Shri Kuna Tripathy were announced as TB Ambassadors for the state.

All three Ambassadors expressed their commitment to improving awareness and public understanding of TB in Odisha. Speaking the previous day on Puri beach, where he created a sandart installation, Padma Shri Sudarsan Pattnaik said, “I want to create awareness about TB together with the state government and REACH. India has a big TB burden but there is a cure, so let us all become more aware that we can become TB-free.”.

“Generally celebrities are expected to endorse cosmetics, or fabrics, jewellery items or any other luxurious brands, so if we celebrities stand with causes like TB, then the society is surprised. So, why I am I here? The society gave me name, fame, identity, respect, but what I am I giving it back to the community. I was shocked to hear that every three minutes, someone dies of TB in India. I am here to join the fight against TB”, said popular Odia actor and stand-up comedian Kuna Tripathy.

Also speaking on the occasion, Padmashri Prafulla Kar, award-winning Odiya musician, commented, “Our commitment as ambassadors or TB champions in this campaign is to increase awareness amongst everyone, so that we can jointly work towards eliminating TB in the state. Some of us are aware about TB but we have joined this cause to spread awareness amongst all”.

“We have believed for a long time that the fight against TB needs the active involvement of leading artistes and intellectuals. We are delighted and grateful that Shri Prafulla Kara, Shri Sudarsan Pattnaik and Shri Kuna Tripathy have declared their commitment and look forward to working with them to dispel the many myths and misconceptions that persist around TB in the community”, said Dr Nalini Krishnan, Director, REACH.

The Ambassadors were felicitated at the World TB Day event organized by the State TB Cell and Government of Odisha, which brought together government public health officials, civil society organizations, TB Survivors and affected communities.

“Together with our TB Ambassadors from the state, I am certain that we will control TB by 2020 and eliminate it by 2025. We are very thankfully to development partners like REACH so we can unite to end TB and achieve zero TB deaths”, said Dr Kailash Chandra Dash, Director of Health Services, Government of Odisha.

With over 1,300 deaths per day, TB continues to be a grave public health crisis in India. The New National Health Policy re-emphasizes India’s commitment to eliminating TB by 2025, reducing deaths, suffering and catastrophic costs related to the disease.

The TB Call to Action Project is being implemented with support from USAID in Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Bihar and Rajasthan. Through this project, REACH seeks to amplify and support India’s response to TB by involving previously unengaged stakeholders and broadening the conversation around the disease.