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180 TB SURVIVORS AND CHAMPIONS TO LEAD ANTI-STIGMA ON WORLD TB DAY

Over 180 TB Survivors and Champions from over 140 districts across six states of India will lead anti-stigma campaigns to raise public awareness and accelerate efforts to end tuberculosis (TB) on World TB Day (March 24, Sunday).The Champions are from Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.

The TB Survivors and Champions have an important role in ending stigma and discrimination related to TB. Since 2017, through the TB Call to Action Project, REACH has trained over 300 TB Survivors though capacity-building workshops and mentorship programmes in partnership with the respective State TB Cells and with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

ArunNaik, a TB Survivor and Champion from Angul in Odisha, says, “TB is a crueldisease.The stigma associated with TB socially isolates a person, andsocial ostracism weakens the mind. A person with TB needs both medical and psycho-social support for timely recovery.”

The TB Champions will participate in district and state level activities of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme(RNTCP) on Sunday. Some of them have been invited by the State TB Cells to speak at World TB Day observations. They will also organise rallies and sensitisation campaigns withanti-stigma messages. The awareness drives will involve the participation of panchayati raj institutions, schools, local self-help groups and the community at large.Through the campaign, TB Champions will call on the key stakeholders and community members to take a pledge to not stigmatise or discriminate against anyone with TB.

RupaKumari, a TB Survivor and Champion, from Ramgarh in Jharkhand, says, “People in my village are still unaware about the symptoms of TB, and the diagnosis and treatment facilities available. They still rely on unqualified rural practitioners for treatment. People look down upon those with TB and hence no one wants to talk about the disease. It is important to create awareness on TB-related stigma and its consequences.”

The theme of this year’s World TB Day is ‘It’s time’. According to the World Health Organisation the theme aims to focus on the urgency to act on the commitments made by global leaders to scale up access to prevention and treatment, build accountability, ensure sufficient and sustainable financing including for research, promote an end to stigma and discrimination, and promote an equitable, rights-based and people-centered TB response.

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