New Delhi [India], March 18 (ANI): Union Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that in the last three years, more than Rs 1,000 crores (around 137 million USD) has been disbursed as Direct Benefit Transfer for nutritional support to TB patients.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare addressed the Stop TB Partnership meet for the first time after assuming chairmanship of the board, through video-conference here today. The meeting gains additional importance in the run up to World TB Day celebrations on 24 March 2021, read a press statement.
The Union Health Minister started his speech by expressing gratitude and honour at being appointed the chairman of Stop TB Partnership Board as this will give him a yet another global platform to working towards eliminating another killer disease. He also stressed on TB as a critical health challenge in India that has prompted the political leadership to target its elimination by 2025: "Tuberculosis continues to be one of India's most critical health challenges which may have devastating health, social and financial consequences for the patients and communities at large. With an estimated 2.64 million TB patients, India has the largest burden of TB globally in terms of absolute numbers."
Dr Harsh Vardhan enunciated on the giant strides taken by India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight TB in the country.
Detailing the treatments provided in India and the journey of fight against TB, the Minister noted, "Over the past few years, we have significantly ramped up India's diagnostic capacity for TB. Our National TB Elimination Programme has advanced by leaps and bounds in the services being provided for TB. The National Program deployed all possible efforts to ensure uninterrupted TB services across the country."
"Initial responses were focused on essential services such as ensuring uninterrupted supply of drugs for patients on treatment and maintaining diagnostic services. Innovative approaches were adopted, including the use of community health workers to aid in specimen collection and transportation and home delivery of TB medicines. The program was improvised based on need and embraced the use of technology for treatment adherence monitoring, and real-time community-led monitoring initiatives for COVID-19 and TB," he said.
The Union Health Minister said, "We now have at least one rapid molecular diagnostic facility available in each district and are aiming to decentralise it down to the block level. We have introduced All Oral Regimens and newer drugs for effective treatment of Drug Resistant TB. Our health systems not only focus on the detection and treatment of TB disease, but also try to address all co-morbidities and social determinants of the TB patients and working rigorously towards prevention of the disease."
"In the last three years, more than Rs 1,000 crores (around 137 million USD) has been disbursed as Direct Benefit Transfer for nutritional support to TB patients," he added.
On the challenges faced by India's TB Elimination Program during the Pandemic, Dr Harsh Vardhan spoke on the Rapid Response Plan that was developed and shared with all States/UTs. Bi-directional screening of TB and COVID was initiated to aid in case of finding of both the diseases with 24 per cent of the TB patients having knowledge of their COVID-19 status in 2020.
The Union Health Minister stated India has taken a bold and ambitious decision for a TB-free India five years ahead of the global target, in 2025. "We are planning an extensive nationwide Jan Andolan to enhance awareness about not only the disease, but its treatment with the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders across the centre and States/UTs", he informed.
He observed that "The current pandemic has demonstrated the vulnerability of humankind to exigencies, recognising that we have to strive to act with greater speed and predictability. We need an aggressive roadmap to curtail deaths from diseases that can be eliminated. We need a fresh roadmap to address global shortages of medicines and vaccines. I would like to work with all of you on these goals and roadmaps."
He added that "constant engagement with all stakeholders will help us achieve this ambitious goal that we have set for ourselves along with the most productive, efficient and targeted utilization of resources."
Dr Harsh Vardhan ended his speech expressing his honour in accepting the position of Chair of the Board. He reminded those present that India has much to share with the global audience regarding TB, in terms of strategies and policies, implementation challenges and their solutions. He also thanked his predecessor Dr Luiz Mandetta (Brazil) and hoped to build on the good work done under his leadership. (ANI)