Its one of the world’s biggest killers, but it continues to be one of the most neglected diseases. Tuberculosis. It kills more people than AIDS, even though we’ve have the treatment for almost 40 years.
The sixth Millennium Development Goal is “Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases.” We all know about HIV/AIDS. Amazing work has been done in the field of treatment, advocacy, education and human rights within the sphere of AIDS. Billions of dollars have been spent, rightly so, on combating the world epidemic.
But for all the attention and money that has been spent on HIV and AIDS, “other diseases” including TB have been largely ignored.
And at the UN Foundation/Mashable Digital Media Lounge, UN Goodwill Ambassador and musician Craig David threw his celebrity behind the cause. He was joined by Lucy Chesire, a TB/HIV survivor from Kenya and Lee Reichman, a leading academic in the field.
The panel focused on two overarching problems that keep TB in the dark, so to speak: Ignorance and Stigma. Most people in industrialized nations don’t realize TB is still around. And those that do have it are afraid to self-report.
The lack of public interest results in a lack of funding, too. When asked if the profile of TB discouraged drug companies from developing better drugs, Lee Reichman answered, “Yes, yes and YES! Its a non sexy disease. People don’t care about it. Drug companies have to compete for profits…” As a result, there is an increased need for public-private partnerships, in order to get the drugs and treatments that we need.
I’ve studied stigma reduction campaigns and have noted that advocates for many health issues (AIDS, leprosy, some disabilities) have been able to shift the discourse from a medical model to a human rights model. There certainly seems to be some of that shift evident in TB strategies – Ms. Chesire mentioned participatory programs in her own country, Kenya, and the focus on empowering people with TB. I’m wondering what kind of networked advocacy efforts are in place with (for example) immigrant rights groups… I’ll be looking into this further. Any comments or case studies are welcome!