Nobody tell those infected with TB that,” I

Nobody wants difficult times, however, those days are unavoidable. You have to deal with it. Some people are lucky to face those trail periods amongst their loved ones. You can count me one among those lucky ones!My life was in a rut for 3 years with my darling companion TB( Tuberculosis). Those were not good days because despite being unwell, I had to pretend that all was hunky dory. Why? Because I didn’t want anybody to know that I am a TB patient.There were people around me but I felt alone amongst the crowd. I was seeing my colleagues moving to the next phase of their lives whereas me, was just counting on WHO achieved WHAT. It is nothing wrong in being jealous of people who have a fulfilling life which you crave for. But it is definitely not right to just keep wishing for it. You need to take steps towards it. You need to own the responsibility of your life.The sooner you understand this concept, the faster your life will gear up.TB the Forgotten Plague. The captain of death. The consumption. These were the name given to this dreadful disease in the pre-antibiotic era.It doesn’t matter which name we call it, Tuberculosis has existed since antiquity. It has been the major reason for the death of many people then and not much has changed now.With the advent of TB medicines, death rates have reduced but prejudice towards people with the disease has progressed.The society infected with TB stigma is the powerful weapon which the disease has to fight against us. This Stigma exists everywhere. I TOO grappled with it for a while. Somehow I succeeded to free myself from its clutches. Believe me! It is an indeed a liberating feeling.Which thought helped me to free myself from my past?A thought to do something valuable. An act, the value of which cannot be measured in terms of money. This encouraged me to tell those infected with TB that,” I had been through circumstances of which you are going through. The journey may be difficult but your sailing has its shore.”Luckily I got a chance to translate my experience into words through MY TB STORY which was shared widely on social media.How does stigma affect TB patients and families?TB has assaulted many along the way to acquire the title of White Plague. Its entourage of loyal soldiers has disguisedly invaded our society in the form of stigma.This TB stigma is preventing us from defeating the disease and is intensifying its spread. The stigma is firmly entrenched in our society and is evidently biased towards women.Young girls of marriageable age are shunned by the society and those who are already married are abandoned by their in-laws.There are documented cases which are not from lower uneducated class but astonishingly from elite educated strata. This story is the perfect example of how ignorance about the disease shattered a life. What has caused this stigma? The prominence of poor perception of the disease cannot be ignored. There are several myths revolving around it. TB patients are considered as cursed ones. It is believed to be an incurable disease. It is rumoured that the drugs used for treating TB are ineffective which causes more harm than any good.Considering its contagious attribute, TB patients are ostracized by other people. This fear compels them to hide their symptoms and not pursue proper treatmentIt is shocking that people are still unaware of how TB spreads. And the surprising bit of it is those are from upper social strata.How can we eradicate the stigma around TB?Breaking silence is the only means to achieve it. Who can make this happen? People who got infected and survived. LIKE ME! Being vocal about this disease is the only way to fight against it.Why is TB Stigma such a challenge?TB Stigma is born out of ignorance. The only way to eradicate it is by educating people about the disease. It has debilitating effects on the infected ones. TB patient has to endure this stigma as the side-effect of the disease.The prominent cause of this stigma is fear of getting infected.How this fear permeated into the society? By irresponsible media coverage.”TB Is Dangerous And Highly Contagious Disease. It Spread Through Coughing.”Which is true but media must address this issues with the remedies. Media should convey messages addressing the diagnosis, treatment care and prevention of TB.This stigma is the additional mental pain to the patients fighting with TB. When they are isolated, they feel as if they are contaminating from within.Every single body who is avoiding them is signalling that they are disgusting in some way and needs to be separated from the healthy people.This TB Stigma is not only the result of the disease but it is also the cause of it.Because of the prevailing stigma, those who are infected are hesitant to seek treatment. They ignore the symptoms for a longer period of time thus worsening the problem.I remember one of my relative who suffered from TB died hiding it. Having a TB is not a bad omen, ignoring its symptoms is an invitation to it.   Stigma is gendered but impacts everyone. Why?TB affects twice as many men as women in India, but the brunt of societal stigma is majorly faced by women. Though men are also not completely spared from it.This TB stigma has rendered many men out of work which has consequential effects on other family members who are dependant on them.Children are consequently affected due to parental illness. They need to drop out of the school and take up jobs to supplement income.  This is how TB with its loyal companion stigma has twisted many lives. TB is so stigmatised- why doesn’t India address it?TB Stigma is one of the causes of an outburst of the disease, therefore in order to eradicate TB by 2025 (as claimed by the officials), we need to first uproot the stigma associated with it.How can India make it happen?This stigma has excruciating effects on TB patients and TB control programmes. Interventions should target areas such as… Creating community awarenessPatient counselling on problem-solving and emotional skillsPreparing culturally sensitive and scientifically sound media messagesProviding financial support for the patient and enhancing qualities of the healthcare workers such as empathy concern and respect for the patient.To eradicate TB stigma, India must spread the message across its length and breadth in a way…”Pulmonary TB is infectious till the patient is not on treatment. Once the patient starts its medication, infectious transmission stops. TB doesn’t spread by shaking hands, by sharing same utensils or clothes nor it is sexually transmitted.”Such media messages supported by the experts can reinforce the message. Here is the TED TALK from the expert who is working tirelessly to end TB era. It is a must watch for all of us to understand the impact of TB on our country.  What Should be the chronology of the TB stigma eradication programme?·        Myths around the disease should be wiped off.·        Conduct workshops to train the frontline healthcare providers to be compassionate towards all patients. This needs to be considered specifically for the public sector.·        Responsible media coverage on infectiousness and non-infectiousness of the disease.·        Encourage survivors to be vocal about the disease because they are the ones who had been through it.Remember, Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the airborne pathogen who do not discriminate between rich and poor. So in order to win the game, we must wipe off one of its strongest players which is none other than TB stigma.Without defeating TB Stigma, this pervasive and enduring disease has no foreseeable end.