VIENNA, Austria – TB advocates from around the world organized at this year’s International AIDS Conference in Vienna to make a point. TB is still a serious issue, not just for people living with HIV, although it does kill one in four people living with HIV, but as a serious global health concern in its own right – one third of the world’s population is estimated to have TB.
I may be a bit biased or even naïve – this was my first international AIDS conference, but TB advocates efforts did not fall on deaf ears. No doubt there’s room for progress, but that I think that it’s safe to say that this is true for many if not all of our global health issues; treatment, prevention of vertical transmission, human rights and the list goes on. Certainly it’s no reason to be discouraged, but rather motivation to continue to think constructively about how we can work together – multilaterals, private sector, national governments and NGOs alike.
My favorite TB event at the AIDS conference had to be a Thursday session titled “No more people with HIB dying of TB”. It wasn’t just because of the incredible line-up of speakers; Former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, Michel Sidibe, Michel Kazatchkine, Marcos Espinal, Timur Abdullaev. Or because Michel Sidibe and Marcos Espinal signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of their respective organizations – The Stop TB Partnership and the Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) – to work together in improving responses to TB and HIV. It was not solely the fact that the panelists, specifically Michel Kazatchkine, invited demonstrators who had carried coffins into the session room while chanting “no more people living with HIV dying from TB” onto the stage to speak.
It was all of these. The simple fact that a diversity of groups and individuals representing different populations and sectors from around the world were able to come together in agreement that TB is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and can only be successfully tackled if we work together, not against one-another. To learn more about the MOU visits UNAIDS and Stop TB. See photos of the event here