The Tuberculosis War: Fighting the Spread of TB


India: The Highest Burden TB Country

And then there is India, at the epicenter of the TB crisis -- a country with nearly a quarter of the world's cases, about two million every year. It is considered by the WHO to be the No. 1 high-burden country in the world. In Delhi, a sprawling city of 14 million, there is an additional problem.

Throughout the slums are charlatans, quack medical practitioners dispensing misdiagnosis and incomplete treatment. Often they are the best the residents can get. These storefront operations dot the crowded streets and neighborhoods of makeshift homes teeming with people. Often the medical practitioner's credentials are displayed on signs outside, but when confronted these lay practitioners admit they don't have the qualifications or knowledge to diagnosis or treat a complex disease like TB.

Responding to the lack of medical care for many of India's estimated 410 million poor, an organization called Operation ASHA has decided to take a novel approach. Run by a former Indian government minister, Sandeep Ahuja, and an OB-GYN physician, Shelly Batra, Operation ASHA (or Operation Hope in English) is bringing treatment to those who need it most. Working from a small office in Delhi, Operation ASHA workers fan out, paying off the quacks, then placing their own counselors in the storefront clinics to make sure patients take all their medications.

The parents of 12-year-old TB patient Golshan told
ABC News correspondent Dan Harris that they gave
their savings to a medical practitioner who
misdiagnosed their daughter.

The clinics are located in convenient place such as local Hindu temples. And ASHA follows up. Every time a patient comes in for drugs -- about three times a week -- he or she has to press their fingerprints into the computer that reads out data about treatment. If a patient misses a dose, ASHA is alerted and they go find the patient to make sure they take the pills.

ASHA now has more than 100 centers around India, and its TB treatment is remarkably cheap. A $25 donation to ASHA will pay for one patient's entire course of treatment for non drug-resistant TB. The WHO's Stop TB program has a similar program worldwide.

Success can be measured in human terms. Every time a patient like 12-year-old Golshan is cured, that's a big step toward choking off a largely but incredibly dangerous epidemic. Golshan had been misdiagnosed by a medical practitioner who called himself a doctor (CLICK HERE for video of Dan Harris confronting the practioner). Her parents, who get by doing menial work at Golshan's school, say they gave him their savings. He then ended up sending her to a public hospital, where she was ultimately diagnosed with TB. Now she is being treated at an ASHA clinic a short walk from the school.

Golshan is now just weeks away from finishing her treatment. She is looking forward to continuing school, living a long and healthy life, and doing what she loves best -- dancing to music from Bollywood.

Golshan is now being treated at an ASHA clinic a
short walk from school.

The "Be the Change: Save a Life" initiative is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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