“India has the resources to win the war against tuberculosis, but we need to eradicate the social stigma attached to the disease. Early detection and completion of treatment is the most effective method to ensure that the disease is controlled and eradicated from India,” Union Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot said on Tuesday.

She was speaking at the presentation of the REACH Lilly MDR-TB Partnership Media Awards here.

In the run-up to the World Tuberculosis Day, four journalists from across the country were recognised for excellence in reporting on the disease. The REACH Lilly MDR-TB Partnership Media Awards for excellence in reporting on tuberculosis in the English language category were awarded to Ashok Malik and Shuriah Niazi. Journalists Biju C.P. and Anupama Kumari won the award for writing in-depth and relevant stories on the disease in local languages.

Congratulating the winners, Mr. Pilot highlighted the importance of the local media in tackling the disease and spreading awareness of its control.

“Information technology can be used to tackle TB, and the local media is among the most effective tools of communication to reach out to the villages where a significant section of our population resides,” he said.

He also launched the ‘Speak up to stop TB' media campaign, aimed at creating awareness of the disease.

Dr. Nalini Krishnan, director of REACH (a Chennai-based non-profit organisation dedicated to the fight against TB), noted that informed and accurate journalism could have a significant impact on public understanding of the disease. “Tuberculosis is a crucial public health concern in India as we bear one-fifth of the world's global TB burden, and in addition there is a growing disposition to multi-drug resistance, which is increasing public health costs.”

Creating awareness of tuberculosis and the treatment available to cure it would help to eradicate the disease by the end of this decade, M.S. Swaminathan, chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and REACH, said. “Education, social mobilisation and catalytic intervention are three key ingredients to controlling the disease.”

Central TB Division Deputy Director Dr. Ashok Kumar said: “Our biggest challenge in TB control today remains of patients not completing their treatment and the rise in the number of drug-resistant TB cases in the country. The government is working towards providing better diagnosis and treatment. We will also now be focussing on patients completing the treatment plan and would more actively involve private physicians in the fight against TB.”

Eli Lilly and Co. (India) Pvt. Ltd. Chairman and Managing Director Sandeep Gupta said: “Tuberculosis is among the leading causes of mortality in India, and the fact remains that with early diagnosis and proper complete treatment, the disease is curable. This is the message we want to spread across the country.”

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