Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infectious bacterial disease that majorly affects the lungs. It is propagated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. There are no immediate symptoms of this disease which makes it difficult to catch it before it gets too late. However, it has the potential to turn fatal very often.
The nature of the disease has caused a lot of stigma and discrimination against TB patients in society. This adds to the woes of the patients who have more problems to deal with such as difficulties in getting a clear diagnosis, getting an appropriate doctor, lack of information on the treatment involved, having to deal with side-effects, loss of income, fear of the unknown, etc.
The last couple of years have been landmark years in the fight against TB in India as well as in the world. In fact, in India, there is a higher commitment in the government to end TB. The budgets towards ending the diseases are increasing and more social support schemes have emerged. The survivors of the diseases are more vocal about it than ever, helping in spreading awareness about the disease.
However, the complete elimination of TB is not possible to achieve without elimination of the stigma and discrimination associated with it. The impact of the stigma is far beyond the feeling of shame, guilt, and fear for a patient. The social misconceptions of the disease cause the patient to isolate themselves from their loved ones, making their recovery even more difficult. This is especially true for women who fear of infecting their children and faces criticism from the family for the same. Even though the disease is curable, the impact of stigma can be longlasting, often being the cause of breaking relationships.
It is not possible to end stigma and discrimination without improving the public understanding of TB. So let us understand a few things about this disease:
- TB is curable.
- The pulmonary or Lung TB spreads through the air, not by touch.
- A patient becomes non-infectious as soon as the treatment starts.
- Extrapulmonary TB, that affects other parts of the body, is not infectious.
As the government makes an effort to improve the service delivery systems for the TB patients, it is up to us citizens to ensure that the stigma and discrimination against the disease are fought against. Together, let us isolate the disease, instead of patients suffering from the disease.
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The CSR Journal Team