Tuberculosis (TB) survivors and Champions are frontline soldiers in the fight against TB and can play an important role in supporting people with TB in Assam.
This was stated by Anurag Goel, commissioner and secretary of Assam health and family welfare department at a meeting here on Saturday.
Goel was appreciative of the work done by TB Champions and praised their commitment in not just completing their own treatment but now supporting that of others affected by TB in the community.
The meeting was organised by REACH, as part of the TB Call to Action Project, in collaboration with the State TB Cell and with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Assam State TB Officer NJ Das said TB Champions are one of the most important elements in the fight against TB.
“The state TB programme hopes they continue to contribute their efforts to the community towards TB elimination.”
The meeting was attended by 32 TB Champions from 22 districts of the state.
In the six-month period, 17 TB Champions from 14 districts provided psychosocial support to over 1400 people with TB, and helped identify people with symptoms and connect them to TB care services.
“From a TB patient to a TB survivor, then a TB Champion and now a trainer for other TB survivors, I feel extremely privileged to consider myself an empowered TB Champion,” said Minoti Puran, a TB Champion from Jorhat district.
“The responsibility to carry forward the work towards elimination of TB in Assam is a big one and I hope more TB Champions come forward and join me in this mission,” he said.
Golga Sawra, a TB Champion who works with tea garden communities in remote parts of Udalguri district said, “Through this mentorship programme, I was able to reach out to the tea garden communities, who were previously unaware of TB. To support my community members who are affected by TB and give back to my community is extremely gratifying.”
The TB Champions have also interacted with families of people with TB to enlist their support and to educate them on TB prevention.
Together, they sensitised more than 14000 people through one-to-one and group meetings, to make them aware of TB.
As a part of the mentorship programme, they have conducted anti-stigma campaigns and involved elected representatives across the state.
Some panchayats have also pledged to make their villages TB-free.
“We designed the mentorship programme to demonstrate that TB Champions can play a valuable role in providing emotional support and information to people with TB, and in improving awareness of TB among their communities. We are confident that the TB Champions will remain leaders in their communities and continue working to end TB,” Smrity Kumar, Project Director, REACH, said.
Assam’s TB Champions have formed a state-level network called Jyoti End TB Assam (JETA), which was initiated in July 2018.
Through this network, TB Champions will work to reduce the burden of TB in the state.
The nomination of the governing body of the network and the election of the office bearers also took place during the meeting.
The senior health officials present in the meeting also interacted with the network members and appreciated their work.