Fusing journalism and TB – telling the stories as they are

TB and activism – the missing link

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While the real stories of this blog get built, I’m allowing myself the luxury of venting, ruminating, theorising and sharing opinions which might find agreement among some readers.  A reader of this blog, Dr Anand Das has revealed some very interesting, and

Activism at AIDS 2010, Vienna

Activism at AIDS 2010, Vienna

indeed startling facts about TB.  He says, “More than two billion people, equal to one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. One in every 10 of those people will become sick with active TB in his or her lifetime. People living with HIV are at a much greater risk.  Do we still need a reason to talk TB????”  Indeed, do we still need reason?

Why is there such lack of interest in such a serious issue?    Without meaning to make unfair comparisons, TB has the same or greater problems than HIV in that it attacks greater numbers and carries them more swiftly towards avoidable deaths.  TB also fosters stigma, it affects the poor disproportionately, it has gender dimensions, it ravages families and claims the lives of productive individuals; it is as much if not more of a development issue. And yet, TB is confined to labs, hospitals and the medical fraternity. Why is the activism, the colour and the energy, which is a part of HIV missing from this issue? Why is it for instance, that we have never heard of TB solidarity groups?  There are groups for people suffering from cancer; substance and alcohol abusers have recourse to help through solidarity groups as do disability groups.  How come there isn’t a network of people who are suffering from or have recovered from TB?  How come we have never see a TB affected person vociferously demanding his/her rights to correct diagnosis and treatment?

I’ve often heard that HIV got world attention because people had learnt lessons from TB and leprosy and did not want HIV+ve people to suffer the same fate as them.  Strange logic that, considering we continue to subject TB and leprosy patients to the same fate that helped people learn lessons!

Is it about the money?  Activism in HIV did not happen by itself. The world came together, great amounts of money were infused into whipping up activism and people living with HIV were encouraged to break out and face the world.  It would be interesting to know how much of the money that has gone into HIV has been for the science, i.e. testing, treatment and diagnostics etc and how much of it was for the social side of the infection.  My uneducated guess says it would be a significant percentage of the whole.  And it has paid dividends.  While it might not have eradicated stigma, it has empowered people to demand services and better quality of lives for themselves.

If as Dr Das says, one in ten will suffer from TB in their lifetimes, that one in ten could be you or me, so shouldn’t each one of us be an activist?

Bharathi Ghanashyam

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

January 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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