AIDS 2012: Raising the Profile of TB-HIV

ACTION made a splash at this year’s International AIDS Conference, raising the profile of TB-HIV to the highest levels of the conference. TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV, causing one in four HIV-related deaths. However, little public or political attention is paid to TB as an HIV/AIDS issue. ACTION educated and engaged conference attendees through interactive games, informative sessions and even a stunt or two to drive home the wise words of Nelson Mandela, “We cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB.”

First there was the booth in the Global Village, complete with a wheel of TB-HIV trivia. At any given time, there was a queue of at least fifteen people at ACTION’s booth waiting to play the game and have a chance at winning prizes for correct answers. Not too far from the booth were TB and HIV themselves – only in mascot form. The giant bacilli and giant virus were seen throughout the week educating conference on TB-HIV co-infection, dancing together in front of the booth, and following each other around the Global Village further emphasizing that the two came as a pair - wherever HIV goes, TB will follow.

Photo credit: Jay Premack

On Tuesday ACTION partners participated in the We Can End AIDS mobilization and called for increased political commitment to fighting TB-HIV. The mobilization featured ACTION partner Carol Nyirenda of CITAM+ and longtime ally Yvonne Chaka Chaka, an award-winning musician from South Africa. Both Nyrienda and Chaka Chaka called on leaders from donor country and high burden country governments to make good on their political promises to take action on TB-HIV.

​Photo credit: Jay Premack

On the last day of the conference, ACTION used a visual demonstration to drive the message home. ACTION partners handed out “one in four” t-shirts to the first 1200 people at the plenary, which equated to roughly one-fourth of the room. After Dr. Anthony Harries presented on the science and implementation to turn the tide on TB, ACTION partner Maree Nutt, national director of RESULTS Australia, took to the podium and asked everyone in the audience with a white t-shirt to stand up. “Look around,” she called out, “If this room was filled with people living with HIV, everyone standing would be dying from TB.” Nutt ended her speech by urging leaders to create the political will to put an end to the devastating effects of TB and HIV and move past one-in-four deaths so we can celebrate the next time we meet in Melbourne.

Following the plenary was a high-level session on TB-HIV featuring activist Whoopi Goldberg. She expressed outrage over the number of children and women who die of TB each year. Likening TB-HIV to a Hollywood couple that goes everywhere together, she asked participants to join her in tackling TB and HIV as one disease. At the end of her speech, she posed for a picture with the TB and HIV mascots and vowed to continue taking action against the devastating diseases, “If you see a problem, fix it.”

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Photo credit: Sam Nuttall, Stop TB Partnership