Via The Guardian: Is Amitabh Bachchan's shock revelation paying off in India's battle to control TB? Excerpt:
If there’s one voice India recognises it is that of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, an actor whose deep baritone has placed him in the spotlight as one of the country’s greatest stars. And Bachchan hopes that Mumbai residents have listened to his own experience of suffering from tuberculosis, so helping to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and encourage sufferers to seek treatment.
The fear of TB and its association with death was arguably inflated by the Bollywood movies of the 60s and 70s, which regularly featured characters coughing up blood and dying shortly afterwards. As a result many TB sufferers still hide their illnesses from friends, neighbours and employers for fear of being ostracised or losing their jobs, further increasing the risk of spreading the disease.
Speaking publicly for the first time about his battle against the disease at the launch of an anti-TB campaign in December, Bachchan revealed that he worked on Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s version of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire game show, throughout his treatment in 2000.
“After complete treatment, I am standing here healthy before you,” Bachchan told a stunned audience. “You don’t have to stop working because you have TB. You have to eat those 10 or 12 pills a day – then you get better.”
India has an estimated 2 million cases of TB annually – the highest in the world – with 300,000 people dying each year, according to the World Health Organisation. Of the 31,789 people diagnosed with the disease in Mumbai 2013, nearly 2,400 were children, including cases of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and the extensively drug-resistant form (XDR-TB).
“We needed a figure like Bachchan for the control programme” said Dr Minnie Khetarpal of Mumbai’s TB programme. “We saw that during India’s HIV epidemic, a lot of film stars spoke publicly, which helped with advocacy. When a person of the stature of Bachchan endorses a campaign, it is easier for us.”
Mumbai’s problem is compounded by the high number of drug-resistant cases, which became apparent when doctors at the private P D Hinduja hospital described 12 cases of “totally drug-resistant TB” in a letter to the Journal for Clinical Infectious Diseases in 2012.