Today in New York, the UN held its first ever High-Level Meeting on the Fight Against Tuberculosis (TB) in order to develop "an urgent global response to a global epidemic."
TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, causing more than one third of all AIDS-related deaths in 2015. Almost 60% of the estimated global HIV-related TB cases are not diagnosed and not treated. — UNAIDS
We share this tremendous concern about the spiraling rate of TB infection that, just like HIV, becomes a health crisis wherever there is economic and social injustice, wherever there is gender inequality and underfunded health care systems. Why this similarity? Because TB follows the same pattern as HIV. This is not only a medical problem, it is a political problem.
There is, however, a clear medical connection between the two infections which is why our partners have been addressing this devastating co-infection for as long as they have been responding to HIV & AIDS in their communities. In Swaziland, our partner SWAPOL has been training grandmothers to recognize the symptoms of TB when they are working with HIV to get people on treatment. In South Africa, our partner TAC, which was instrumental in securing generic HIV drugs, has been leading the campaign to get access to affordable generic TB treatment.
As the international community comes together today to determine how best to eradicate the tuberculosis epidemic, we declare with urgency: AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE RESPONSE TO TB MUST BE THE SAME AS WHAT WORKS SO POWERFULLY FOR HIV. Political will is required, and funding needs to flow to local levels where it will be put to use addressing the holistic health of a person. The model of care developed by our community-based partners represents the best hope for the end of TB.
To our donors, we thank you for your steadfast support of community-based organizations. Your contributions are part of the essential work taking place to combat the devastation of TB. May the leaders of the world follow your lead today.
The Stephen Lewis Foundation