Health Kalon’s Message on World TB Day

“Reach the 3 Million: Reach, Treat, Cure everyone”

Tuberculosis (TB) continues to be the disease of major public health burden in our Tibetan community despite decades of being affected, efforts in management and subsequent increase in awareness of the disease in our community. Not surprisingly, it is one of the world’s top health challenges with 9 million new TB cases and the deaths of nearly 1.5 million people each year. We renew our commitments to reduce the burden of the disease through our sincere efforts with the commemoration of yet another World TB Day on the 24th of March this year. Tuberculosis is a preventable disease which can be prevented and cured easily by prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment.

One third of the world’s population (more than 2 billion people) is infected with TB. In 2013, there were 13 million TB cases out of which 9 million were new cases. Of that, 3 million were either not diagnosed, not treated, or officially not registered by National TB Programs; that is to say that 3 million are simply ‘missed’. Some of the most vulnerable population groups are included in the ‘missed’ category which eventually results in inappropriate treatment leading to severe consequences or simply more infection of others due to ignorance. The theme of this year’s World TB Day thus focuses on these 3 million people; reaching them, treating them in order to cure everyone. Another grave concern is that of the rising number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB and extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB. In 2013, as estimated 480,000 people developed MDR-TB with XDR-TB reported by 100 countries.

Even in our Tibetan community in exile, we have a large number of new TB cases as well as emerging MDR and XDR cases. We can assuredly assume the number of missed cases to be equally high. The Department of Health (DOH) of the Central Tibetan Administration has a TB control program which treats and gives care to Tibetans suffering from TB disease across various settlements in India through its wide network of health care centers. The program practice its assignments in conformity with the treatment guidelines laid down by the WHO and that of the host nation, India. The primary health centers serve as first referral centers for patients within the settlements and the hospitals provide basic diagnostic and treatment facilities. There are seven TB clinics across India that send regular TB data to the department. The DOH is fully committed and has continued to raise awareness and mobilize support from all aspects in this fight against TB in our community. This year, the DOH has received a generous grant from the USAID for Tibetan Health System Capacity Strengthening project that will partly assist the TB Control Program in its endeavor to reduce TB burden and help in building infrastructural capacity for the same. In our effort to catch the missed TB cases, regular TB screening is done in the all the schools and the monasteries through active case finding for early detection and treatment. Those found to be infected are thus treated at our health centers and managed with DOTS treatment strategy until cured. Apart from the treatment strategies, a large investment of time and energy is spent on education and awareness of the disease in our community. Over the years, the department’s TB Control Program has continued to make remarkable achievements in provision of TB treatment in our community.

Therefore, this World TB Day, we urge every common Tibetan to be ‘TB aware’ and help us in helping our community be free from this deadly disease. All levels of personnel; at political, social, administrative and health care level must unite to recognize the severity of the disease and work collectively toward fighting it. Let us unite in the fight against TB, for TB is preventable and curable.

Thank you

Dr. Tsering Wangchuk (Health Kalon)