Chennai, Tamil Nadu: REACH held its 18th Annual General Body Meeting on September 21 at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

The AGM began with a welcome address by Ms. Sheela Augustine, Deputy Program Director, REACH.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, former Rajya Sabha Member, renowned Agricultural Scientist and Chairman, REACH said, “REACH has come a long way from that first meeting I remember almost 20 years ago. There is still a lot of work to be done and involving the community is a priority to achieve TB control”.

Dr.P.R. Narayanan, Former Director, National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, presided over the meeting as the special guest and acknowledged the achievements of REACH, particularly in demonstrating a model of private sector engagement.

Dr. Nalini Krishnan, Director, REACH thanked Dr M.S. Swaminathan and Dr. Narayanan for their guidance and support over the years.

Dr. Ramya Ananthakrishnan, Executive Director, REACH, presented an overview of the organization’s activities and key achievements in 2016-17. Following her presentation, members of the REACH team shared their experiences of working on various initiatives.

“It was a rich experience for me and my team to support patients and their families to go through the process of contact screening. We were able to counsel patients, educate them about TB, and provide them with symptom screening, X-Ray support and GeneXpert testing, if required. If TB was detected, we were able to guide them to start treatment at the TB unit,” said Ms. Juliet of the IMPACT initiative.

Mr. Joseph of EQUIP initiative is grateful to the private practitioners who are supporting the initiative, “we have so many memories of meeting new private practitioners for the EQUIP initiative, whose support has been vital in using the newer diagnosis, GeneXpert, thereby providing quality diagnosis and treatment to TB patients.”

“To think that REACH is now working in five states of India, in addition to Tamil Nadu, for TB care and prevention is a source of pride. We started in Chennai, moved out into the districts of Tamil Nadu through Axshya, and now have broadened our work to include other states as well. It’s been wonderful to see the welcome that REACH has received in other states through the Call to Action project,” said Ms. Anupama Srinivasan.

Mr. Anbarasan of the Pharmacy Initiative said, “Pharmacists are a difficult group to work with, as they have their business to manage, but once they are convinced and trained on their role, they start contributing to TB control.”

Some of the TB patients associated with REACH were also a part of the event. They shared their experiences of fighting TB with REACH’s support.

“I feel healthy now and am thankful to the team at Rotary Nanganallur Centre that has helped me overcome my fears and defeat TB,” said Mr. Kuppuswamy, a TB Survivor. Another TB Survivor, Mr. Venkatakrishnan, said, “I would like to acknowledge the support of my wife, who helped me in my battle against TB. I also remember the care provided by the REACH team that always made sure that I was taking my TB tablets and would visit me so many times when I was not well. A person’s life has meaning only when they help others, and I congratulate REACH for their work in TB care.”

Ms. Amrita Limbu, an MDR-TB survivor and now an activist, talked about her journey. “I am an MDR-TB survivor. TB made me strong and I wanted to support others in the society. Therefore, I am happy to help other patients,” she said.

The meeting was followed by the launch of the REACH Annual Report 2016-17 by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. A special memento was presented to Dr. M.S. Swaminathan for his guidance and support to REACH over the years.

Dr. Sivamurugan, President, Ms. Suraksha Giri, Secretary, Mr. K Ravi and other committee members took part in the meeting.

“The journey has been wonderful and we have been able to show good work. With the dedication and hard work of the REACH team, we can move towards our vision of a TB-free society,” said Dr. Sivamurugan, President, REACH.

Members of the REACH staff were also awarded and honoured for their dedication and service through the years. Ms.  Nalini. K, Ms. Deenathayabari, Ms. Mangaiyarkarasi, Mr. Joseph, Ms. Shanthi, Mr.Ganesh. M, Ms. Kalpana and Ms. Rajalakshmi were given recognition for their work.