A group of over 25 TB survivors from across Assam announced the formation of a state-level network of TB Champions during a meeting with the Mission Director of National Health Mission (NHM), Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Assam, JVN Subramanyam, IAS in Guwahati on Wednesday.
Over the last three days, the TB survivors participated in the first ever state-level capacity-building workshop, organized by REACH in collaboration with the State TB Cell and with support from USAID, in Guwahati.
Welcoming the network formation, Subramanyam said, “The TB Champions can be important ambassadors for the TB programme. Interpersonal communication through such ambassadors is the most effective form of mass communication that can happen.”
Subramanyam interacted with the TB Champions and highlighted the importance of their active efforts to achieve a TB-free Assam.
He also discussed stigma related to TB and the need for combined efforts of all stakeholders, including the State and the community, in addressing the issue.
“Through the Assam TB Champions Network, we aim to actively engage in the mission of TB elimination, and pledge to sensitize our community against stigma and other social barriers,” Liaqat Ali, a renowned playwright and TB Champion, said.
State Programme Officer(RNTCP), Assam, Dr N J Das, speaking at the workshop, appealed to the TB Champions to sensitize their respective communities, particularly vulnerable populations in hard-to-reach areas.
Brian Holler, Infectious Diseases Advisor, USAID India, also participated in the workshop.
“Who can understand TB better than us (TB survivors)? It is our duty to motivate and inspire others affected by TB through our stories and experiences. We want to convey that treatment is available for TB and it is completely curable,” said Mala Nayak, an ASHA worker and TB Champion from Tinsukia.
The objective of the capacity-building workshop was to support the TB survivors to become effective TB Champions and spearhead advocacy and sensitization efforts at the community level.
Over three days, the TB Champions were oriented on the basics of TB care and treatment, the structure of Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP), key TB issues in Assam and effective tools for advocacy, communications and network building.
At the workshop, TB Champions Amrita Limbu and Tilak Mutum, members of Touched by TB, a national coalition of people affected by TB, led sessions on the importance of sharing personal stories effectively.
They also led an exercise in examining challenges faced by those affected by TB through the care cascade.
“We hope this is the first stage of a long and fruitful partnership between the TB programme and TB Champions in Assam. TB Champions are integral to our efforts to achieve a TB-free India and TB-free Assam,” said Anupama Srinivasan, Deputy Project Director, REACH.