India has seen reduction in TB incidence: Mandaviya

New Delhi: India is the only country in the world to have developed its own mechanism for estimating its tuberculosis burden as it strives to eliminate the disease by 2025, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Thursday.

Speaking at a Quad Plus side event on tuberculosis during the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, he also announced that the country has witnessed a 13 per cent reduction in TB incidence from 2015 to 2022, surpassing the global reduction rate of 10 per cent.

Additionally, TB mortality in India has decreased by 15 per cent during the same period, compared to the global reduction rate of 5.9 per cent.

India, he said, is the only country in the world to have developed its own mechanism for estimating its TB burden. By employing a mathematical model based on local evidence, India can now determine the true burden of the disease well ahead of the annual World Health Organisation report, Mandaviya said.

In his address, the minister emphasised on the significance of the upcoming UN meeting on tuberculosis scheduled for September as an opportunity to evaluate the collective progress made towards ending TB, a statement here said.

He commended India’s dedication in striving to eliminate TB by 2025, five years ahead of the global Sustainable Development Goal.

Recognising the importance of early diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures,  Mandaviya said, “To identify all missing cases and reach the ‘unreached’, India has taken diagnostics and treatment to the patients at the last mile.” “To ensure universal health coverage to each and every patient, we have established over 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres which provide TB diagnostics and care to all patients, along with a host of other primary healthcare services. This has been especially beneficial to people residing in hard-to-reach areas of our country, ensuring universal health coverage even in remote areas,” he said.

Mandaviya also highlighted India’s successful collaboration with the private sector, enabling quality care for TB patients through their preferred centres, clinics, and doctors. As a result, notifications from the private sector have increased more than sevenfold over the past nine years, the statement said Addressing the issue of stigma associated with TB, Mandaviya highlighted India’s pioneering community engagement mechanism, the Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan (PMTBMBA).

Launched by President Droupadi Murmu, this initiative aims to support TB patients through their treatment journey.  The program, which includes ‘Ni-kshay mitras’ or donors, has garnered substantial support, with nearly 78,000 Ni-kshay mtras committing to assist around a million patients, raising an estimated USD 146 million per year, the statement said.

The Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana initiative provides monthly nutritional support to over 75 lakh people undergoing TB treatment through Direct Benefit Transfer, amounting to more than USD 244 million since its introduction in 2018.

The minister also spoke of the crucial need of developing an effective vaccine in the fight against TB.

“To eliminate this disease the world needs to work together as one with greater cooperation to ensure equitable access to the latest diagnostic and treatment options. To achieve the UN high level meeting targets for ending TB by 2030, we must find patient-centric innovative approaches to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB. India is committed to share its learnings with the world and learn from other contexts as well,” he added.