Volunteers Speak!

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We are Nithya and Evangeline, social work students (MSW) from Stella Maris College, Chennai. We volunteered with REACH as a field work trainees to know and understand their initiatives in TB control. We had some knowledge about TB, but, only after a thorough orientation by the staff we understood the gravitas of TB problem in India.

As part of our work, we were asked to interact with TB patients.  Initially we were nervous as we did not know the right way to deal with patients. But, guidance from REACH staff made us confident and we started talking to patients. During our stint, we learnt about DOTS, the need to educate people about the disease and various other interesting facts surrounding treatment of TB patients.  We were exposed to harsh realities of patients suffering and the impact it caused on their families.

Our work also involved meeting pharmacists and encouraging them to participate in REACH’s TB control initiatives. It was an iffy task, as initially, several Pharmacists were not keen on the initiative. However, constant motivation and perseverance pushed us to network with more pharmacists and bring them under the TB control initiative.

Our stint in REACH has been an eye-opening experience. We have enough knowledge about TB to educate people about the disease and also guide TB patients to start their treatment on time.

We thank REACH for this opportunity and we wish them all the very best!


small Boy, BIG love!

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Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday is DOTS day. Several patients visit the PPM centre in CSI Kalyani hospital. For me, every patient is like a family member and I ensure to interact and enquire about their health and motivate them to take their medicines regularly. Amongst these patients there is a seven- year old boy who is very special to me. His name is Raghu* and he is from Nepal.

As I park my two-wheeler, Raj* greets me with a wide affable smile. Saying “hi uncle” he takes my bag and accompanies me to my cabin. Raghu has tuberculosis and is on treatment for the past two months. Initially it was difficult for him to swallow the medicines and I helped him overcome this ordeal by being supportive and raising his morale. Though, there was a clear language barrier, I somehow managed to persuade him to take his medicines. After a few weeks, he started interacting more and more with me despite the language issues.

Raj genuinely brings a cheer on my face. At such a young age, his presence makes me forget all my worries. It is always a pleasure to see him in the clinic. He is one of the youngest patients I have ever treated and I find him influencing me with his warm smile and greetings! I hope, wish and pray that he completes his treatment successfully and visits me often!

As narrated by Mr. Joseph, Zone Coordinator, REACH

* Name changed to protect identity.

The ‘ordinary’ faces of the disease

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Every year on World TB Day, numerous articles will be published about tuberculosis. This is one day of the year when we wake up to the fact that we are battling a treatable and curable disease yet one that kills about 1,000 people a day in India. As someone who has worked on TB for over 15 years now, I would like to focus not on the global struggle or India’s challenges but on the ordinary TB patient who remains invisible in the ongoing discourse on TB control.

Gomathi had been coughing for a long time. As a domestic worker, she had little time to think about herself. She noticed her cough only when it started to interfere in her ability to work. A visit to the nearest doctor resulted in a diagnosis of TB. She was shocked. Fear zipped through her mind. How could she support her family? Would her employers allow her to work if they found out that she had TB?

Kannan called our TB helpline in great anxiety. His daughter was diagnosed with brain TB and put on treatment but her condition was rapidly worsening. On review we found that she had been given prescriptions for anti-convulsants, which he was giving her, and a referral form sending him to the TB clinic for anti-TB drugs, which he could not read. No one had explained to him what the referral form was for, and the treatment delay had a disastrous effect on his daughter’s recovery.

Gomathi and Kannan are not characters that I invented. They are real people — they could be anyone that we know. These are real-life scenarios that can hamper a patient’s progress and prevent them from completing treatment. The journey of a patient from the onset of illness to cure is full of obstacles that can derail his treatment and thereby the outcome. Yet we tend to blame the patient and not the system for failure to complete treatment.

Anybody with TB needs to take regular and continuous treatment for six to eight months to get cured. The patient’s responsibility is a very difficult one — having to swallow many pills every day, while balancing their work-life routines and dealing with the disease.

A diagnosis of TB often leads to a high degree of fear and even misconceptions. Tuberculosis has been associated with stigma so powerful that it can affect not just the patient but also the entire family. The stigma results in not being able to find someone to marry you, being asked to vacate your home, losing your job. Women are sent back to their parents’ home, the elderly shunned within a family … today, in the 21st century, is this allowable? Can we look critically at ourselves and at the way we behave with people who have infectious diseases such as TB? Can we resolve to be more human, empathetic and understanding of their difficulties? This World TB Day, let us change ourselves, our attitudes, and our behaviour.

(The author is Programme Manager, REACH, a Chennai-based NGO)

The above article was first published in The Hindu on 24th March 2015.

“Zero TB Deaths in Tamil Nadu”- A Campaign

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TB remains a major public health challenge in India, where TWO people die of tuberculosis every THREE minutes.

“Zero TB Deaths in Tamil Nadu” is a one month campaign, starting on 24th March, to sensitize the general public about tuberculosis and involve them in a petition campaign, demanding the government to provide better services for people affected by tuberculosis.

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Convey through Colours!

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It is quite common for organisations to paint their compound wall white. But, the Social Welfare Board in Thanjavur decided to do something different. They painted their compound with messages about TB and safe cough hygiene practices. This initiative was done to sensitize and educated the local people about the disease.

REACH thanks its partner NGO, SHED India for supporting this initiative.


Thanjavur-SHED INDIA (3) Thanjavur-SHED INDIA (4)







The doctor and his DOT centre

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REACH builds rapport with private practitioners  to inform them about the availability of TB care services in the Government and trains them on the ways and means by which they can get involved in the program. To reach out more private practitioners, TB forums have helped in identifying and sensitizing them. Life TB Forum in Dindugal, has sensitized 21 private practitioners out of which 10 of them have started referring cases. So far, out of 33 referrals – 17 have been found positive for TB.

The star among these doctors is -Dr. Karuppasamy, who referred 14 symptomatic patients and found 5 to be as TB positive. To ensure the patients take their medicines on time his clinic has been converted as a DOT centre. Now, the DOT centre is handling 10 TB patients including patients who were found positive by government hospitals. It’s not just educating his patients on tuberculosis, Dr. Karuppasamy even counsels when they need to help a spouse understand the patient’s needs.

Appreciating his sincerity and efforts, several patients from the government hospital are being sent to his clinic for DOTS.








TB awareness for tribals

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75 kms away from Thiruvanamali and a part of Eastern Ghats; Jawadu Hills are situated at least 3000 feet above sea level. Waterfalls, lakes and the Kavalur Observatory allure tourists during the holiday season. The hills are also home to over 40,000 tribal people who have inhabited the area for many generations.

But, the inhabitants of the hills have a secret. Several of them have been affected by TB. Over 40 TB patients attended a patients’ charter meeting organised as a precursor to a massive awareness camp to reach out to the tribal folk.

The awareness camp was organized in 20 locations covering a population of 10,000 inhabitants. Several families attended the camp. Many of them were unaware of the disease and the camp proved beneficial, as many tribals with TB symptoms came forward to give their sputum for testing.






Information about TB has also painted at prominent locations in the hamlet.

Despite tough terrain and erratic weather patterns an Intensive Outreach Awareness (IOA) drive is underway to reach out to every household to detect TB symptomatic tribes. This drive will continue till the end of September 2015.

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