news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | July 8, 2014 | 08:30 am IST

Defending criticism and tears, Thiago Silva said “I have overcome tuberculosis…I can overcome this... I am a fighter.” He may be out of the World Cup, but he is intrinsic to the game. 

It is one of those off the cuff remarks from a global star that the world of public health would die for and in many cases, pay millions in endorsements. Just that this one came from the heart, from a survivor, at the right time, at the right place and at the right moment. 

That’s a lot of rights including one in an odd sort of a way for India which has no team at the FIFA World Cup but is linked to the captain of a football team from the country that hosts the world’s most watched event – the link is tuberculosis. 

As the World Health Organisation (WHO) seeks to scale its options in preventing deaths from a disease that is treatable and curable, India is one of the countries where TB needs serious attention as new strains of the disease come to challenge the known. 

“Let us be clear about one thing – TB is a poor person’s disease and someone living in a favela or a slum is more likely to get it than a CEO – but it is not a death sentence,” Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Global TB programme tells The News Minute (TNM). 

The WHO last week launched an ambitious agenda for rich countries to reduce their TB infections in a bid to develop a model that can be replicated in countries including India where the disease thrives and is growing. There is no other example in public health to underscore this effort but Dr. Raviglione says framing TB cure as one between the rich and the poor is faulty as no one is safe from the disease. There are specific populations at risks, like for all epidemics, but TB can infect people well beyond its most known environment. Read here

Tuberculosis kills one Indian every two minutes or 750 people every day. Some 19 lakh people need treatment with over one lakh who present the multi-drug resistant (MDR) strain. Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has announced that addressing MDR is a priority and India will address not just the disease but also how care and cure is delivered across the country. 

“That’s something we have not heard from India in a decade,” says Dr. Raviglione adding that time is now for India to completely review and revamp its TB programme. 

Sources tell The New Minute (TNM) India is on the verge of securing a $100 million deal with the World Bank to address the disease which shows no signs of abating. The profile of the infection is not what films project, a hapless poet clutching his chest while coughing or a drunken sod in love. It is one of a disease that needs early detection because it is completely treatable and curable. 

Tuberculosis does not kill if caught early. When in doubt, think of Tiago Silva or for that matter Nelson Mandela who was also diagnosed with the disease and lived to change the world. Get that incessant cough checked or reported.

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