Mark Green, USAID Administrator, met with members of “Touched by TB’, the first and only National Coalition in India of people affected by TB, during his visit to Hyderabad. The meeting was sponsored and facilitated by REACH and USAID India.
The Hon. Administrator USAID, in his remarks, pointed out that is it unacceptable for people to be dying of a curable disease like TB and reaffirmed USAID’s commitment to help in the fight to end TB in India.
‘Touched by TB’ and GCTA member, Dr Alma Ram, is a true TB champion in every right. She spoke about her experience with TB, and how a high dosage of medication ultimately left her infertile. But today, she empowers other young women in Punjab so that they do not suffer like she did. When asked by the Administrator, on her first reaction on being diagnosed with TB, she replied, “Why me?”
Another TB Champion, and ‘Touched by TB’ member, guitarist and people-loving Cedric Fernandes, knows what it’s like to have your whole world come crashing down. After he was diagnosed with TB, people deserted him. He admits to have not known anything about TB, and what made matters worse was that no one else knew anything about TB either – which was why people ran away from him in the first place. His testimony really touched everyone present, and he spoke for many people who are affected by TB when he said that what people really need is companionship and support.
‘Touched by TB’ Coordinator and CEO-GCTA, Blessina Kumar moderated the session and said stigma is one of the biggest barriers in accessing care and information on TB. She said that fear reinforces stigma, and we need treatment literacy to address this issue. Blessina also spoke about ‘Touched by TB’ and said that the affected community cannot remain mere recipients of care; they need to be seen as valuable partners in the TB response.