Ensuring TB Treatment Continues During The COVID-19 Lockdown In India

Speeches Shim

When India took measures to shut down the country to contain the spread of COVID-19 in March, access to medications and food became significant problems for many TB patients. Although the government had set up numerous support systems to help vulnerable TB patients in need of food and medication, few TB patients knew how to access them in the early days of the pandemic and lockdown. To bridge these gaps in Bengaluru, the USAID-supported TB Health Action Learning Initiative (THALI) project team, stepped in to help facilitate access to much needed services.

As soon as the lockdown began, THALI Community Coordinators (CCs) substituted their in-person visits to TB patients with phone calls for follow-up and counseling. During the first calls, they found that three TB patients were having trouble accessing food. THALI Project Coordinator, Poornima B S says: “We were so worried about the patients who were living alone without caregivers and in distressed conditions. In this situation, the Government of Karnataka’s Hunger Helpline was a real boon. Since we were not allowed to travel personally and help these patients, we made arrangements for them through the helpline for two square meals a day.”

CCs also found that four TB patients in Bengaluru needed immediate refills of their TB medications but, due to the lockdown and fear of COVID-19, they were unable to travel to the health facilities to get them. The CCs arranged for one patient to pick up his medication with no waiting time and arranged for home deliveries for the others through government frontline health workers and TB Health Visitors.

These efforts ensured that vulnerable TB patients’ basic needs were met and existing government services were efficiently utilized. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, the project’s frontline workers have helped a total of 409 TB patients with the distribution of medication, counselling, and nutrition support.

Last updated: November 18, 2020

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