Confronting a Global Epidemic through Partnership

May 3, 2010
by Jove Oliver

You know the power of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund (REF) to move leaders in Washington, D.C., but did you know REF also works with partners around the globe to ramp up the fight against tuberculosis (TB)? Launched in 2004, Advocacy to Control TB Internationally (ACTION) brings together advocacy organizations from eight countries to push for greater resources to treat and prevent the spread of TB.

TB is a preventable and curable disease, yet it continues to kill about 1.8 million people each year, equal to one person every 20 seconds. As a result of inadequate treatment, drug-resistant strains of TB have emerged that are much more difficult — and sometimes impossible — to cure. Cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) have been found in almost every country in the world. Recently, the United States saw its first case of extremely drug-resistant TB (XXDR- TB), in a Florida student who was eventually cured at a cost of $500,000. It is only a lack of political will that allows TB to claim more lives than any other infectious disease after HIV/AIDS.

RESULTS and REF began raising awareness and funding for TB in 1997 after realizing that few people were paying attention to the disease, which disproportionately affects the poor. Building upon the advocacy successes of RESULTS/REF and RESULTS’ international affiliates, REF proposed the creation of ACTION — a project that links together a global network of civil society and grassroots groups around advocacy efforts to mobilize new resources for TB.

In Kenya and India, countries with high TB burdens, ACTION partners work with governments and civil society to increase governmental attention and response to TB and funding for TB programs. The six other partners are based in wealthy donor countries — Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — and are increasing the political and financial support that each of these countries provides for global anti-TB efforts. REF acts as the secretariat for ACTION, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors.

ACTION’s impact around the world has been large — awakening leaders and the public to the unnecessary tragedy of this treatable disease, drastically increasing funding to prevent and treat it, and influencing the creation of policies for better TB control. In the U.S. alone, ACTION has helped mobilize more than $554 million to fight global TB since 2004.

ACTION’s new Washington, D.C.-based project director, Emily Wainwright, has even higher hopes for ACTION going forward. A longtime RESULTS supporter, Wainwright received her master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and has worked in Bangladesh on community-based nutrition programs and with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“I’d like to see ACTION achieve the big goal — more funding for TB from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and elsewhere — but also more active citizen participation in that dialogue,” she said. “I think we’ve seen amazing things happen in the HIV community when civil society speaks out, and we need that for TB.”


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