T.B. : A Social Taboo

Tuberculosis is a very serious and infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs.

T.B. or the full form of T.B. disease – Tuberculosis is a very serious and infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs. Although the disease is treatable, misinformation and ignorance regarding the disease are still rampant and that often takes more than a diagnosis and treatment. Read on to find out more about Tuberculosis, its symptoms, and the taboo that is still stuck to it. 

Tuberculosis is a disease that affects the patient’s lungs. There are two types of Tuberculosis: Latent and Active TB. 

When a person has latent TB he/she will not show any symptoms of TB. This is not contagious. Active TB, on the other hand, makes the person sick and has visible symptoms. 

The symptoms of active Tuberculosis include –

• Continuous coughing for 3 or more weeks

• Coughing up blood and mucus

• Chills

• Loss of appetite

• Unintentional weight loss

• Acute chest pain

• Pain while breathing or coughing 

Tuberculosis can also have a negative impact on other parts of the infected person’s body. Organs like kidneys, spine, and brain can also be affected. Like any other disease, T.B. disease too requires a proper diagnosis after thorough examination. Needless to say, it requires proper treatment too. The taboos, myths, and the stigma attached to the disease make it difficult for individuals with the symptoms of T.B. to go for a check-up. You should immediately contact a doctor if you have a persistent cough, unusual weight loss, severe chills, drenching night sweats and fever. Individuals who have HIV/AIDS, use IV drugs, are in contact with infected people, live in TB common areas, work in TB common areas or work in the healthcare industry (where they are in close contact with T.B. patients) should get checked for latent T.B. 

A society in which stigma is attached to Tuberculosis or any other disease, people are discouraged from a proper diagnosis and often choose to live in denial rather than poverty or social banishment. This can further lead to several other problems. Most myths and taboos do not have a shred of truth in them. Almost all of them are factually incorrect and only spread ignorance in communities. 

In India, patients with Tuberculosis have to face a deep sense of rejection from their society, their family and friends. The lack of knowledge and awareness around the topic has alienated patients from the society they once belonged to. People still think that Tuberculosis is incurable and that no amount of medicine or treatment will be able to change that. It is also believed that Tuberculosis medicines can have a very negative impact on the patient. People across the country think that Tuberculosis can cause sterility and impotence, while some others still believe that Tuberculosis is hereditary and can spread through unsafe sexual practices. 

The foundation of these taboos and myths is rooted in ignorance and lack of awareness. It is a shame that in the 21st century, during the peak of technological advancements and globalization, some people still believe that Tuberculosis can spread by shaking hands and sharing food with an infected person. Due to the taboo that surrounds Tuberculosis, infected people are often ostracized and shunned from the society that they once lived in. This kind of behavior can lead to a pathetic emotional quality of life, low self-esteem, debilitating financial and social conditions, along with unstable mental health that can lead to suicide and self-harm in the future. People infected with Tuberculosis are forced to quit their jobs and occupations, which can make living a normal life very painful. When the sole providers of families get infected with Tuberculosis, it pushes people into the world of debt and poverty. It has also been found that the stigma attached to this disease has a more negative impact on women compared to men. Single women have difficulties while looking for both a husband and a job. Married women are also shunned outside of their homes when found to be infected. Myths, taboos and stigma successfully alienate and abandon patients at a time when relationships, affection and compassion can speak volumes. 

Awareness is the only solution in such situations. Health education should be added as a subject in schools and colleges. Health programmes should be made and executed. Infected patients must be provided with psychosocial and financial aid in these times.

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