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Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
India: TB claims victim every minute
A doctor has made this video to raise TB awareness in India
A doctor has made this video to raise TB awareness in India
In a special report from India - where someone dies of tuberculosis every minute - the BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports on efforts by doctors to combat the devasting effects of the disease

There are 10 patients in the TB ward of the local hospital in Faridabad, near the Indian capital Delhi.

Last year Ashok, 18, died after fighting a long battle against the disease.


18 year old Ashok died of TB last year
18 year old Ashok died of TB last year
Harish Chand, Ashok's father, said that they tried everything.

"He used to take medicine, get better, and then fall ill again," he says.

"This continued for several years. But in the end he couldn't get cured."

Raising TB awareness


Shanti was taken to a TB clinic but died of her illness
Shanti was taken to a TB clinic but died of her illness

After more than a month of sickness, Shanti was brought to the TB ward of the district hospital by her husband.



There is no reason for so much of death and disaster. Main reason is lack of awareness

Dr Raman Kakar, TB specialist
She has since died. Om Prakash now knows he has TB.

Like the others, if he gets the right drugs and takes them correctly for several months, he will have a fighting chance against the disease.

Many sufferers in India, says Dr Raman Kakar who is a TB specialist, miss that chance.

"Proper medicine, if taken for the appropriate length of time, 98 out of 100 patients should be fully cured," he says.

"There's no reason for so much of death and disaster. Main reason is lack of awareness."

Centres where they can test sputum for resistance to the main drugs used to treat TB are all too rare for a country with such a large TB problem.

Treatment difficulties


Sputum clinics which test resistance to drugs used to treat TB are scarce
Sputum clinics which test resistance to drugs used to treat TB are scarce
When multi-drug resistance - or MDR - is found, there is a further challenge for India's hard-pressed health system, as well as for most patients.

The only other drugs available are many times more expensive.

The battleground, says Dr Manmohan Singh of the TB Association of India, is in the back streets of India's towns and in the rural areas.

"One patient, if he is untreated in the community and he is left in the community then he can infect at least 10 patients more," he says.



One patient, if he is untreated in the community and he is left in the community, then he can infect at least 10 patients more

Dr Manmohan Singh, TB Association of India
"That will aggravate the problem 10 times. That is why we are afraid of more and why MDR will be a tragedy if it is allowed to come in."

There are many other problems: the cost of getting to clinics, moving around in search of work and persuading patients to comply with taking drugs effectively.

At one charitable hospital in Faridabad, it is done by tough talking - and the incentive of free food with the drugs.


TB ward in Faridabad: India's health system is under pressure
TB ward in Faridabad: India's health system is under pressure
Resistance to the drugs used at present for treating TB is alarming for the whole world.

Some say it raises the spectre of a return to the kind of impact TB had in the West in bygone centuries.

But if there are parts of the world now rediscovering the disease they thought they had put behind them in India - and in particular in crowded living conditions - TB's grip has never lessened.

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See also:

17 Feb 00 | South Asia
India praised for TB programme
26 May 98 | T-Z
Tuberculosis
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