Tuberculosis, I knew was just ‘another disease’ that affected several Indians. I thought TB was on the decline and soon it would be eradicated. But, my perception about TB completely changed after I joined REACH.

July 02, 2014 was my first day at REACH and I would often hear words like MDR-TB, DOTS, HVs, PPM centre, TRC, sputum, mantoux and many other abbreviations that sounded Greek and Latin to me. It took a month before I deciphered these abbreviations and understood the problems surrounding TB. I read many reports, looked up for information on the internet and of course asked my colleagues every silly doubt to know about TB and the initiatives by REACH.

Within two weeks of my joining, I was given the task of shooting a short film that showcased our work. Thrilled and excited, I roped in a friend to be a part of the project. This was an eye-opening experience as we interviewed patients, caregivers, private practitioners, REACH staff and pharmacists. Everyone had a story for us and we provided a platform to amplify their woes, concerns and ensured the film ended with a positive note of not giving up hope and reminded people that TB was curable.

Apart from the regular work my days were interesting, as a field staff would talk on how they counseled an old patient or a zone coordinator would tell me about a new case or my seniors would inform me about new developments in TB control. Every staff I spoke had a story to tell and I managed to write stories on patients, caregivers, pharmacists and volunteers who out their heart and soul to ensure the patients completed their treatment.

I never used to bother if someone coughed, but since last year I am a bit concerned of people having cough. I immediately enquire about their health and tick off the symptoms of TB in my head. I asked a cab driver once if he was coughing for more than two weeks, I am pushing a friend to get his sputum tested, taught a small kid to cough with care and of course educated my friends and family on TB.

For me, REACH has been like a second home and every day I have learnt something new. My seniors motivated me and gave me space to think, work and perform better. They stepped in when I needed help and supported me in my work. I must also appreciate the efforts taken by the field and zone coordinators who mothers, brothers, sisters and friends of the patients to ensure completion of treatment.

It has been an amazing one year and I wish REACH all the best!

Avinaash Kastura is a former staff at REACH