Stigma around TB still persists: counsellor

Suchita Surve being felicitated as the best TB counsellor by the civic body at a function last week.  

"Most patients with tuberculosis have a problem with accepting the fact that they have the disease,” said 30-year-old Suchita Surve, who has counselled over 500 drug resistant TB patients in the last three years.

Ms. Surve is attached to Saksham Pravaah, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences project, which offers counselling, in collaboration with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Last week, she was felicitated as the best counsellor by the civic body.

Ms. Surve counsels nearly 40 patients every three months. “About 80% of my patients complete treatment. There are defaulters, deaths, and loss of follow-ups. I ensure to motivate as many as possible to have the medicines,” said Ms. Surve. She is posted in S ward that covers the IIT Market, Surya Nagar, Tagore Nagar and Tulshetpada under Bhandup and Vikhroli.

“All these patients are in slums and chawls. Most of them live in tiny rooms with little or absolutely no ventilation. There is still stigma around TB. If we go with masks on our face, family members get worried that their neighbours would know about the disease,” she said.

Ms. Surve follows what doctors have been emphasising for a long time: strong immunity. “All will be well till my immunity is strong. Therefore, I focus on my nutrition and set out on the field every day.”

Ms. Surve does not leave the house without a good breakfast. “I mostly have a glass of milk and idli. I carry my home-made chapati and vegetables for lunch followed by an evening meal of dosa or idli. For dinner, I have fish or chicken and rice.”

“Most of the patients and their family members will have tea and biscuits in the morning. Besides counselling them about continuing the medication, I keep telling them about the importance of nutrition,” she said.

An arts graduate from SNDT University, Ms. Surve completed a short course on counselling simultaneously before joining the Saksham Pravaah project. At present, she is counselling a few commercial sex workers, who have multi drug resistant (MDR) TB.

Then there is a chawl in one area which has seven MDR patients in a row. But her most important patient right now is an eight-year-old girl from Bhandup, who has extra pulmonary drug resistant TB. “She is a challenge as well as an inspiration. When I tell her positive stories, she brightens up and fights back. But at times, the side effects of drugs make the girl really low,” said Ms. Surve.

While the minor girl looks forward to Ms. Surve’s visits, she does not get the same welcome everywhere. “Some people turn me away from the door. Some even abuse in frustration. But I keep going back,” she said.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 2:18:04 PM |

Next Story