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World TB Day 2023: Dr Lalit Kumar Anande talks about Tuberculosis, mental health and why we need to be more human in our approach

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World TB Day is observed every year on 24th March to raise awareness about TB and efforts to end the global epidemic, marking the day in 1882 when the bacterium causing TB was discovered. On World TB Day 2023, the theme is ‘Yes! We can end TB!’, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
‘The aim is to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic,’ says WHO.
On World TB Day 2023, Dr Lalit Kumar Anande, Ex-Medical Superintendent of TB Hospital, Mumbai opens up in an exclusive interaction, about Tuberculosis and its impact on mental health, why TB can be fought by boosting our immunity, why we need to be more human in our approach towards people with TB, and why they need support from the government.
Dr Anande, a veteran has been active in his battle against Tuberculosis for over three decades and also spreads awareness around the same. Below are excerpts from his conversation with The CSR Journal.

What are the mental health struggles of a TB patient?

I do not call TB patients as ‘patient’; I call them my TB friends. I have seen their loneliness in my ward, when I used to head an institution. I have seen them dying a lonely death. This is very pathetic and painful. Dying a lonely death is horrible.
A person with TB feels totally devastated because none of their friends or relatives come close to them. In fact when a person gets Tuberculosis, it becomes kind of a taboo. Nobody talks to him. They cannot come out of the house or spend time with children. In school also, it becomes a hot topic of discussion that this child’s father or mother has Tuberculosis. The problems are many. Even the domestic help feels worried about whether she should continue working in this house.

How can we be more human in our approach towards such a patient?

The most important thing is breaking the ice. I always put my hands on the shoulder of a person with TB, make eye contact and talk face to face with them without even wearing a mask. That breaks the ice and then they feel free to pour out their unhappiness and pain.

What is latent TB?

There can be TB bacilli present inside your body. It is called latent TB. The TB bacilli lie silently inside your body because these are afraid of your immunity. If your immunity goes down, only and only then will these have the audacity to attack you. Now, the best weapon you got to use this war against Tuberculosis is to boost your immunity by simple means which was done in India in olden times.

What are the basic ways to boost our body’s immunity?

A major role in the treatment of TB is played by our immunity system. These days, a lot of focus is given on antibiotics. But it is extremely important to boost your immunity. When it comes to boosting the immunity, there are so many things out there, like Vitamin D, which can be obtained from the sunlight, magnesium, then goat milk which is suggested in Ayurveda.
Another major thing over here is Vitamin C. Then the free radicals in the body have to be scavenged by antioxidants to boost your immunity. Also, when immunity goes down to zero, it leads to mental stress.

What message would you like to share for World TB Day 2023?

I have so many things to say for my TB friends who are suffering. They can be brought under the handicapped category. It is indeed a handicap because their lungs are destroyed, which unfortunately is not visible from outside. They face a stigma from society and even don’t get jobs. The government should help them and can consider doing something like this.
One more important thing, their nutrition has to be different. Their diet should focus more on antioxidants.
Also, they need your support. It is extremely important to break the ice. You cannot break the ice by standing a few metres away from them and talking to them. Talk to them; understand the pain they are undergoing. Only then TB can be fought together. This is what I have done all my life and will continue to do.

 

 

 

Ahana Bhattacharya can be reached at ahana@thecsrjournal.in