Africa: Speaking Out - Activists Face Down the World's Leading Infectious Killer

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(file photo).
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For people living with drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis (TB), the road to recovery can be long, painful, and lonely. Patients can spend months or years fighting the disease, enduring daily injections and swallowing thousands of pills. Though new drugs to treat TB offer some hope, they are still priced out of reach for many of the patients who need them most. Activists--including members of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its Access Campaign--aim to change that.

Some of the most effective advocates for changes to the way TB is treated are the people currently battling it. To this end, in 2019 MSF convened training workshops for "TB Leaders" in South Africa, which has particularly high rates of the disease.

These three-day trainings included sessions on TB, leadership, advocacy, and communications and networking skills. "Patient advocates have gathered to support each other through treatment, to march on parliament, and to stand against stigma," said Dr. Eric Goemaere, MSF's HIV/TB coordinator in the organization's Southern Africa Medical Unit.

As part of the project, MSF worked with Dutch photographer Jelle Krings to produce a series of portraits of South African TB survivor activists. From a pop star to a Zulu prince to a public hospital dietitian, these portraits show how TB can touch the lives of people from vastly different walks of life--people who, with the right tools, can become powerful advocates for better, safer, and more accessible treatment.

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