Every Day Has To Be World TB Day

April 5, 2016
by David Bryden, TB Advocacy Officer

How can you make tuberculosis real to people who think it was eradicated or controlled long ago and that surely there is already a vaccine?  That’s the conundrum facing advocates in the US every World TB Day, March 24.

At a larger scale than ever before, and collaborating with many organizations, we brought to light the stories of people who have actually had the disease and struggled through the treatment.  The impressive feature stories and op-eds, including by RESULTS volunteers, helped correct the impression that TB is just a thing of the past.  A RESULTS media tour, organized in large part by RESULTS advocates and featuring TB survivor Loyce Maturu, took this powerful message right to writers of editorials.

Key to this success was the formation of We Are TB, a grouping of TB survivors based in the US who are supporting each other to tell their stories.   They shared their experiences and received training at a meeting in Denver in the lead up to World TB Day. The training – sponsored by RESULTS, Aeras, NTCA, TB Photovoice and Stop TB USA, was inspired by and fashioned largely after the storytelling and media trainings regularly offered by RESULTS to its volunteers. It was an honor to collaborate with so many fantastic partners in this way.

Many stories were documented on video for the first time, such as that of Derrek Kelley of Los Angeles.  Reminding us all that TB is a matter of life and death, one participant in the meeting, Nora Rodriguez, passed away just a few weeks later.  Her message of determination and urgency is something that will stay with us and keep us going forward – be sure to see the tribute to her and video.

Many of the TB survivors then came to Washington for a day of outreach and education to Congress, including a number of in person meetings with members of the House.  They wore the new red TB pin from the Stop TB Partnership (be sure to get yours and wear it to raise awareness!)  A TB survivor named Zee Pinkerton met with his member of Congress, Kevin Yoder (R-KS), and Rep. Yoder has since joined the TB Caucus.  Kate O’Brien told her story of developing active TB while pregnant – listen to the audio by clicking HERE.

RESULTS volunteers, including REAL Change fellows, played a key role in a major success in March, which was the highest number ever of signers to House and Senate letters for global TB funding!  Some RESULTS groups also participated in a set of outreach webinars that took place on the eve of World TB Day, highlighting both the human impact and the policy opportunities. Still others took action online. Thank you for all your hard work!  We also saw the new USAID Administrator, Gayle Smith, receive some tough questions on the Hill about the ongoing effort from the Administration to single out global TB funding for a major cut.

The Washington Post reported that for the first time in 23 years the number of TB cases had increased in the US.  The increase was seen in 29 states plus the District of Columbia, and CDC stated that the effort to end the epidemic in the US had “stalled.”

But while we were reminded of how serious the epidemic is, we also saw some exciting reasons for hope.  One was that finally, decades after the drugs were first developed, there is now a formulation available for children (in countries served by the Global Drug Facility).

As we move forward we need to remember that every day has to be World TB Day.  With the daunting challenge before us of ending TB by 2030, we need to redouble our efforts to get funding for effective programs and for the research that will take us the last mile to success.

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