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Free treatment for TB

People in all parts of India can now get diagnosed and treated for tuberculosis for free, under Centre's RNTCP, writes Sanchita Sharma.
None | By Sanchita Sharma, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 25, 2006 01:39 AM IST

People in all parts of India can now get diagnosed and treated for tuberculosis for free, under the Centre's Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP).

"India is on the right track… TB prevalence dropped by 9 per cent last year. RNTCP is one of my better performing programmes, along with leprosy, which was eliminated in India last year," said health minister Anbumani Ramadoss on the World TB Day.

Under the programmes, free medicines are given under direct supervision (called directly observed treatment short-course or DOTS) for two to three months, to ensure that patients adhere to the prescription course and do not develop multidrug-resistant TB, which is expensive and sometimes impossible to cure. Currently, multidrug-resistant TB accounts for 1-3 per cent cases of the 1-8 new infections each year.

The current detection rate is 66 per cent, against the World Health Organisation standard of 70 per cent.

"Last year, we had achieved 70 per cent detection rate, but due to inclusion of new areas in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, detection rate has slipped to 66 per cent. We are, however, working towards strengthening detection centres in those areas to meet the target next year," said Ramadoss, adding that increased detection rate would help India reduce the disease by half by 2015.

The second phase of the RNTCP began in October last year, with a budget of Rs 1,156 crore for five years. The second phase will focus on standardized implementation of detection, treatment for multi-drug resistant TB cases and inclusion of 'paediatric' drug boxes.

To eliminate TB, the Centre would need to implement the programme as a Centrally sponsored scheme, with the provision of quality anti-TB services for the nest two to three decades.

Globally, the World Health Organisation launched the "Stop TB Strategy" to address the challenges in scaling-up TB control activities, while also addressing the spread of TB and HIV co-infection and treating multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

The new strategy underlines the global plan to stop TB, 2006-2015, an ambitious $ 56 billion action plan launched in January that aims to treat 50 million people, halve TB prevalence and death rates and save 14 million lives.

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