The 2016 Global Tuberculosis Report, published this month by the World Health Organization (WHO), demonstrates that tuberculosis (TB) is a global crisis. Although TB related deaths have been reduced by 22% more than 10 million new TB patients have been diagnosed around the world. The United Nations states that “the tuberculosis epidemic is greater than previously estimated, a reflection of the data provided by the surveys conducted in India and their new policy of monitoring.” India is part of a group of 6 countries that registered 60% of the new patients. Together with China and Russia, these countries account for 45% of the cases of multi drug resistant TB.
According to Dr. Gerardo Álvarez-Uría of VFF, director of the Hospital of Infectious Diseases of Bathalapali, the international reports of tuberculosis deaths and infections often overlook at risk patients liek those from rural India served at VFF hopsitals. With expensive treatment prices the rural poor do not have the possibility to have infections treated at national health centers or included in global statistics.
Currently, all health professionals, in both the public and private sector, have a system for online communication called “Nikshay” that facilitates the notification of cases and prevalence or incidence of tuberculosis. It has also improved the process of controlling and monitoring the disease using certain methods such as household surveys or, in the case of the many states within India, studies on the sales of anti-tuberculosis drugs, or new analyses of mortality rates.
For Alvares-Uría, the problem is that records may fail because “certain people who live with the disease never get diagnosed” and that “many private doctors did not notify—and continue to not notify—cases of tuberculosis to the government.” This tends to be common, for example, in the rural areas where private health personnel treat the sick (some without medical training) who never report the data, so “it is not known for certain.” According the WHO, even the recently published disease data is provisional pending the National Tuberculosis prevalence survey to be published between 2017 and 2018.
In 2015, tuberculosis was one of the top ten causes of mortality around the world, causing even more deaths than HIV and malaria. To fight for the eradication of this disease and guarantee the correct treatment of patients, VFF is supporting two health centers specializing in diagnosis and treatment of TB—one general facility of Kanekal, and another specialized facility in Bathalapali.