ARDA News Review: Project Axshya gives Tuberculosis sufferers a voice through community radio.

Tuberculosis has existed for millennia and has been a deadly disease for all of it.  It is an airborne disease, spread when those who have active Tuberculosis in their lungs cough, sneeze, spit or even speak.

Although the discovery of antibiotics in the 20th century, specifically streptomycin in 1946, made the contraction of TB less of a death sentence, the disease’s historical deadliness has invoked fear and bred stigma against sufferers.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a disease that mostly affected the poor in society. After it was found to be contagious, the poor were effectively segregated from society, quarantined in sanatoriums.

In the late 20th century, the fact that it was one of the main opportunistic infections of the AIDS scourge led to further stigmatisation of its sufferers.  Adding to the societal fears, the Tuberculosis bacteria has adapted and evolved resistance to the once lifesaving antibiotics.

Lack of education and information about the disease is one of the leading causes of stigmatisation.  Worldwide, sufferers are thrown out of their family homes and cast out of society, unable to get jobs, build relationships or do many of the social activities we take for granted.  In Ghana, TB sufferers are not allowed to attend public gatherings, while in Nigeria, many employment agencies that cater to domestic staff insist that applicants undergo a tuberculosis test.  It can be quite disheartening to lose job opportunities due to a disease that in some cases is in a latent or being managed.

Today’s story comes from the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), and reports on Project Axshya, a community-based radio project that seeks to provide community radio stations in India with “information, talking points and personal stories about tuberculosis to encourage conversation in the communities where they are located.

Since the Community Radio Initiative’s inception in 2010, Project Axshya, supported by the Global Fund, has worked with 50 stations to produce over 2,000 hours of programming on TB in nine languages and across 17 states in India. TB broadcasts cover topics such as diagnosis, treatment, drug-resistance and socio-economic issues, but centre around two main messages: TB is curable and free, high-quality diagnostics, treatment and care are available.”

The Union said that the community radio stations are one of the few sources of credible information in remote, rural areas and as such are a wonderful tool for broadening public knowledge and understanding of TB.

Project Axshya works with these stations, training the presenters and workshopping interesting and engaging related content for their audiences.  They even developed a resource handbook for broadcasters and presenters to use in self-study.

One other key aspect of the Project is linking the stations with government representatives and NGOs.  This allows listeners to be linked with resources that can provide help, advice, counseling and support to TB sufferers and their loved ones.

Sensitization and putting a human face to the disease is key to reducing stigmatization.  Presenters like Amit tell stories about TB sufferers and their lives, telling stories about how they are banished from their families and forced to cut of contact with their own children.  It really helps illustrate the unfairness of stigmatization.

You can read the article this news story was taken from here (insert link) (https://www.theunion.org/news-centre/news/project-axshya-partners-with-community-radio-stations-to-fight-tb-throughout-india)

Find out more about Project Axshya here (insert link) http://www.axshya-theunion.org/

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