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World Tuberculosis Day

Each year the World Tuberculosis Day is commemorated on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis (TB) and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.

Despite significant progress over the last decades, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Each day, over 4000 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 63 million lives since the year 2000. The emergence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) poses a major health security threat and could risk gains made in the fight against TB.

Key Facts on TB

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.
  • About one quarter of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis (TB) bacteria. Only a small proportion of those infected will become sick with TB.
  • People with weakened immune systems have a much greater risk of falling ill from TB. A person living with HIV is about 20 times more likely to develop active TB.
  • In 2019, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis (TB) worldwide. There were cases in all countries and age groups. But TB is curable and preventable. 
  • A total of 1.4 million people died from TB in 2019 (including 208000 people with HIV). Worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent (above HIV/AIDS).
  • Men (aged ≥15 years) accounted for 56% of the people who developed TB in 2019; women accounted for 32% and children (aged <15 years) for 12%. Among all those affected, 8.2% were people living with HIV.
  • Eight countries accounted for two thirds of the global total: India (26%), Indonesia (8.5%), China (8.4%), the Philippines (6.0%), Pakistan (5.7%), Nigeria (4.4%), Bangladesh (3.6%) and South Africa (3.6%)
  • Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat. Worldwide in 2019, close to half a million people developed rifampicin-resistant TB (RR-TB), of which 78% had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).  The three countries with the largest share of the global burden were
    India (27%), China (14%) and the Russian Federation (8%)
  • TB treatment saved about 63 million lives globally between 2000 and 2019, but important diagnostic and treatment gaps persist. The treatment success rate for people with TB was 85% in 2017.
  • Globally, TB incidence is falling at about 2.3% per year. 
  • Of the estimated 10 million people who fell ill with TB , only 7.1 million were detected and notified in 2018, leading to a gap of 2.9 million cases. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

TB is deeply rooted in populations where human rights and dignity are limited. While anyone can contract TB, the disease thrives among people living in poverty, communities and groups that are marginalized, and other vulnerable populations.

These include: migrants, refugees, ethnic minorities, miners and others working and living in risk-prone settings, the elderly, marginalized women and children in many settings etc. Factors such as malnutrition, poor housing and sanitation, compounded by other risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use and diabetes, affect vulnerability to TB and access to care. Furthermore, this access is often hindered by catastrophic costs associated with illness, seeking and staying in care, and lack of social protection, resulting in a vicious cycle of poverty and ill-health. The transmission of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) adds great urgency to these concerns.

Source : WHO

Theme for 2021

The theme of World TB Day 2021 - ‘The Clock is Ticking’ – conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders. This is especially critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put End TB progress at risk, and to ensure equitable access to prevention and care in line with WHO’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.

TB Free India Campaign

TB is the leading infectious killer in India. There were an estimated 26,40,000 people with TB in 2019, with over 89823 people succumbing to the disease, including those with TB and HIV.

The government has launched the "TB Free India Campaign" to address the challenge of TB in mission mode to eliminate TB in India by 2025. To achieve 'End TB' targets, the Government has rolled out a "National Strategic Plan (NSP) to end TB by 2025". The NSP adopts a multi-pronged approach which aims to ‘Detect’ all TB patients with an emphasis on reaching TB patients seeking care from private providers and undiagnosed TB in high-risk populations, ‘Treat’ all patient irrespective of where they seek care adopting a patient centric approach, ‘Prevent’ emergence of TB in susceptible population groups and ‘Build’ empowered institutions and human resources to streamline implementation.

Government support to eradicate TB 

The Indian government has a National TB programme since 1962; however, after reviewing its effectiveness, the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was rolled out in phases from 1998. Through the RNTCP, the government provides high-quality free diagnosis, free drugs and free treatment throughout the country.

In April 2018, the government initiated the Nikshay Poshan Yojana – a scheme for nutrition support to TB patients. The scheme provides a financial incentive of Rs. 500 to each notified TB patient through Direct Benefits Transfer for the duration for which the patient is on treatment. All TB patients notified and registered on the Nikshay portal on or after April 1, 2018 and existing TB patients on treatment are eligible to avail of this benefit.

Mandatory notification of TB patients : The government issued a gazette notification making it mandatory for doctors, health practitioners and pharmacists to report cases of TB to National TB Programme. Non-compliance of this order could face a jail term of up to two years under sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Source : Central TB Division

Related resources

  1. Global tuberculosis report 2020
  2. India TB Report 2021


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