Expanding the fight to curb tuberculosis, specially in densely packed slum pockets, a joint programme under the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and the Center for Disease Control, USA, will rope in additional counsellors to target drug-resistant TB patients in the city.
Initial analysis of the programme, running since August 2014 in some parts of the city, counselling has helped reduce treatment drop-outs often witnessed in handling the infectious disease.
About 17 counsellors, coupled with 27 existing counsellors, will cater to areas like Bandra, Goregaon, Andheri, Malad, Kurla along with Govandi and Chembur to help the government-run Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) in providing medical and psychological aid to patients. Data collected from RNTCP shows in 2014, 2,640 patients dropped out of treatment, which rose to 2,976 in 2015 in Mumbai.
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The programme, called Saksham and funded by Global Fund for AIDS, TB and malaria, began as a tiny project in Mumbai, but is set to expand to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka and entire Maharashtra to provide psycho-social support to TB patients. “We also attach a few patients with social teams for overall support, mentally and financially. Counseling has improved treatment adherence to a large extent,” said Professor Shalini Bharat, project director of Saksham, TISS.
Until March 2016, 4,800 patients have been enrolled for counselling services across Mumbai. Eyeing the success of this programme, TISS has recently signed several MoUs with stakeholders to establish a larger TB control programme in Mumbai. The programmes will focus on creating awareness, ensuring treatment adherence and support to poor patients. Special attention will be given to those suffering from both HIV and TB.
Under another three-year long programme, called Saksham Jan-Urja, 11 volunteers are going to cover a population of 11 lakh in Govandi and Chembur to sensitise slumdwellers about how to prevent TB infection. “Govandi is a high-prevalence pocket. It is necessary to create awareness on prevention, treatment and how the bacteria spreads in slums,” said a member attached with Saksham.
Mumbai has registered 1.99 lakh TB patients, of which 12,691 are multi-drug resistant (MDR) cases and 1,243 are extensively drug resistant (XDR) patients, a figure escalating each year.
According to Dr Daksha Shah, deputy executive health officer at BMC, patients requiring shelter or employment are also being given rehabilitation under this programme. “We are slowly expanding to the entire city. Focus is on community engagement now,” she said.
The RNTCP is making documentaries to show them to enrolled patients. The documentary will explain the treatment and counsel patients on what to expect during the long treatment cycle of drug-resistant TB. “We have already made cartoons and clips to broadcast in buses and trains,” said Shah.