“In Mumbai, we started working on TB when there was a big issue surrounding drug resistant TB after a few people died. Since then, I have been working on TB. It is challenging and it has many aspects so I like working on something which is so complex. I have worked on TB for a while so it was natural for me to apply for a fellowship on TB. The fellowship gave me the freedom to travel and focus on a specific topic.

I looked at the gender aspect of TB during my Fellowship. It was interesting because you have to pursue a certain aspect of a story. It was actually tough to establish what I did as not many people think of gender so they had to dig their memory and try to remember details. They don’t think of women as very crucial to the TB program in a sense that there are not many women in the program itself. They aren’t specifically looking for women in the program. That’s why I spoke of active case finding and similar aspects because it is crucial to bring women in the scenario. There is not much written on women and TB so I chose it. There are very few studies on it too. Getting patients was the biggest challenge. You have to really hunt for stories. You have to do a lot of research. Even the people who are working in the field don’t think of it as a gender problem.

There is a lot of social stigma attached to TB. Even when I was in the field, I met a woman who had TB and someone met me outside and asked me if she had HIV. It has the same kind of stigma, which is related to HIV. Nutrition is one of the things that has to be brought immediate attention too. People haven’t had proper food in a long time. They haven’t had milk in years. How are they going to cure themselves? Also, nobody is looking at the sputum and we are missing out half the diagnosis. We need to look for cases actively. I recently spoke to someone who was telling me there is no treatment for latent TB. The challenge now is also starting daily dose for TB patients. We have to implement that all over India.” – Menaka Rao, Journalist and National Media Fellow, 2015

This story is part of our series called Voices of TB Heroesthat features TB survivors and community volunteers whove impacted the lives of those affected by TB

 According to the Global TB Report for 2016 that was released last month, India continues to bear the worlds highest burden of TB, with 2.8 million people affected by the disease last year. Despite being curable, TB kills over 1000 people every day in India.

At the heart of Indias battle against TB are those directly affected by the disease. It is their stories that we need to hear, their struggles and battles we need to support and their victories we must celebrate. Please read and share these stories widely.