Union Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan on June 16 addressed the World Health Organisation’s Global TB programme on ‘Global Drive to Scale up TB Prevention’.
During the virtual address, the Union Minister mentioned that key action is needed for tuberculosis (TB) prevention strategy. The minister further mentioned the need to expand access to accurate TB screening and diagnostic tools like NAAT, digital X-ray with artificial intelligence aided detection, high-quality drugs, digital technologies multi-sectoral community engagements, and integrating TB services across all levels of our health system.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan is also the Chairman of the Stop TB Partnership Board.
NAAT or Nuclear Acid Amplification Test is a tuberculosis screening test for covid positive patients.
The diagnosis of tuberculosis is primarily done using smear microscopy and by rapid molecular test (CB NAAT) in selected key populations, for eg, pediatric, TB HIV and extra-pulmonary tuberculosis. A Cartridge-Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing is a rapid molecular assay that detects M. tuberculosis and rifampicin resistance.
A digital x-ray is an advanced form of x-ray inspection which produces digital radiographic images instantly on a computer. It is the involvement of computer technology in the X-ray system.
During his address, the Union Health Minister also spoke of expanding the access to digital x-rays with artificial intelligence that would aid in the detection.
In India, the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules, 2004 under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, provides the legal framework for the safe handling of radiation generating equipment in the country.
A major tool in the direction towards eradicating TB is a vaccine. Dr. Harsh Vardhan appealed to the global community to unite to develop a vaccine. He said, “To End TB, we need to accelerate the development of new vaccines, drugs, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that if the world unites, it is possible to develop vaccines in less than a year. We need significant advances and a similar approach for TB”.
He called upon the global community to strengthen adequate funding so that countries like India can scale up TB preventive treatment by 2022, devise TB Vaccine by 2023 and reach the goal of “End TB in India” by 2025 and globally by 2030.
Prevention, diagnosis and management of TB require multisectoral collaboration and resources. In this direction, different sectors such as the private and public, government, intergovernmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, private health care providers, affected citizens, and the civil society need to work closely together to achieve the target of a TB-free country.
**Eliminating TB in India by 2025**
India has committed to eliminating TB in the country by 2025, which is five years ahead of the global deadline of 2030. The Government of India’s National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination (2017-2025) has been set to achieve the said target.
In September 2019, Dr. Harsh Vardhan had also launched ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ Campaign, along with the National TB Prevalence Survey to generate awareness towards TB treatment. Under the campaign, patient forums were established in over 95% of all districts within the first 100 days of the launch of the campaign.
**National Strategic Plan**
The National Strategic Plan for TB elimination in India (2017-25) is a framework to guide the activities of all stakeholders, including National and State Governments, development partners, civil society organizations, international agencies, research institutions, private sector, and several others whose work is relevant to TB elimination in India.
NSP focuses on early diagnosis of all TB patients, prompt treatment with quality-assured drugs and treatment regimens. It also engages with patients seeking care in the private sector.