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Resuming treatment and reclaiming his life: the story of Rajamanickam

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There was a shy glimmer of pride in Rajamanickam’s eyes as he accepted a felicitation at REACH’s World TB Day event, last week at Citi Centre. And he has every reason to be: he’s on the good side of a journey that didn’t start out so well.

manickam

In his mid 50s, Rajamanickam is a mason by profession. When he first came down with sputum positive TB in 2009, after testing at the Chintradripet corporation dispensary, he didn’t fully understand the seriousness of the illness. After a bout of irregular treatment, he gave up on the tablets once he was feeling a little better, only to come down with category II TB a few years later.

In 2012, at an awareness programme conducted by Speed Trust and REACH, Rajamanickam was found to be symptomatic and tested positive for Cat 2 at the corporation dispensary. Supporting a family of three others – (his wife and son are both victims of accidents and cannot use their legs; another son works as a painter and his income is sporadic) – Rajamanickam found that he wasn’t able to provide for his family, as the TB treatment left him too weak to work. He turned suicidal – “What’s the point in living? I am only a burden to my family” he would say.

It took months of counseling him – various staff at REACH and Speed Trust’s Dr Mani would visit him regularly at the TB sanatorium in Tambaram to talk to him and encourage him to hold on. “Finish your treatment, and you can start working and providing for your family again.” – that piece of advice seemed to work best with him and he continued treatment.

Today, Rajamanickam is only a fortnight away from completing his treatment and is back on his feet again. He looks forward to working as a watchman and earning his daily bread with pride.

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TB-Diabetes: what is the way forward?

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An article in the Times of India, Chennai today morning, listed out the hazards of TB and Diabetes coinfection, (read it here) and the need to combat this as a system. As Dr Vijay Viswananthan of MV Diabetes put, ” An estimated 25.3% of all tuberculosis patients had diabetes mellitus (DM) as compared to a TB prevalence of only 10.4% among the general population.”

To those of us in the know about TB, this has been a long standing concern. But the question remains: how can this be combated as a system? Testing diabetics for TB is the obvious answer, but as diabetes delays sputum conversions, delaying results by months. Dr Soumya Swaminathan of NIRT, says in the article, “administering Isoniazid, an anti-TB drug, to diabetics can help prevent the onset of tuberculosis. Like at HIV-treatment centres, we can use active tuberculosis cough as an indicator to screen patients.”

Of course, it would help to educate the people we know about diabetes-TB coinfection – to watch out for the red signs: diabetics should know that a 2 week continuous cough (for pulmonary TB) or inflammations of any other part of your body (extra pulmonary) in addition with one of the other symptoms – chest pains, evening fever, loss of appetite, loss of weight – could mean TB. But combating this problem with a regularised system of testing and treating diabetics for TB and vice-versa, primarily needs a workable system that will be approved and put in place by the government.

And judging from the response to the problem of HIV-TB coinfection, that took years to see a working system of testing for coinfections in the national TB control programme, well after its peak of being in the public arena, we wonder what the way forward to the TB-Diabetes problem is. And more importantly, how long it will take to get there.

 

REACH’s traveling photo exhibition

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We are happy to announce that our traveling photo exhibition got back fabulous interest from crowds at Sivan Park in KK Nagar and Perambur Park. The 14 photos, which capture the everyday lives of those affected by TB, were taken over a period of one month, by emerging photographer, Yuvraj Vivek.

If you are interested in catching the exhibition, drop in at the following venues:

IIT Campus, today (April 1) till 5 pm

Central Railway Station, (April 2) between 2 pm and 6 pm

Egmore Railway Station, (April 4) between 2 pm and 6 pm

Open invite to all! See you there _VI_1040