20 – 25 March 2010, saw the arrival of Lucy Chesire, well known and respected advocate for HIV/TB issues from the ACTION project, Kenya. During her week long Advocacy Tour, Lucy met with a variety of stakeholders talking about her personal experiences with HIV and TB, and the problems faced by Kenya in maintaining health services for tuberculosis, while supporting the UK Coalition to Stop TB in the launch for their new campaign ‘TB: A Disease of the Past? Action Now!’ for World TB Day.
Lucy has a moving story to tell. Diagnosed in 1992 with HIV, Lucy successfully managed her HIV status until 2000 when she contracted TB. It was only then did her illness bring her to the brink of death and enable her to access life saving treatment for tuberculosis and HIV, as well as introduce her to the world of advocacy. Since then she has travelled the world speaking about the personal and national problems that exist for people suffering from tuberculosis and what international efforts can be made to eliminate tuberculosis from our future.
The Advocacy Tour was kicked off to a good start when Lucy met with grass roots activists and shared her experience of living with HIV and contracting tuberculosis at the RESULTS UK National Conference. On Monday 22nd March she accompanied grass roots activists into a variety of meetings with the DFID Health Team, DFID Education Team and a meeting with the Gates Foundation. It proved to be an exciting day of discussions and a great opportunity for everyone to discuss their opinions openly and ask the important questions on health and education.
In the run – up to World TB Day on 24th March 2010, Lucy was interviewed by several journalists including a recording for BBC Focus on Africa http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/audioconsole/?stream=networkafrica and BBC World Swahili Service.
The parliamentary event ‘The Human Face of TB’ provided an interesting forum to highlight key messages where Lucy spoke about her personal experiences as well as highlighting key problems faced by Kenya in continuing its battle against HIV and TB, especially in terms of continued funding from DFID. In addition Kibble Ngawalauka, Executive Director of the Sue Ryder Foundation in Malawi also spoke about TB in Malawi, with participants including several MPs, members of the House of Lords and NGOs in attendance.
On World TB Day Lucy was invited as a guest speaker at the evening reception ‘Hope – Stories from India’ co-hosted by Target Tuberculosis and the UK Coalition to Stop TB. Throughout all the events and activities Lucy undertook during the Advocacy Tour her message was clear and simple: It is effectively useless to tackle HIV/AIDS without also tackling TB, the leading cause of death for people living with HIV, and that nobody should have to die from this curable and preventable disease.
Though a short whirlwind visit, Lucy’s Advocacy Tour proved to be a good opportunity to raise awareness of the ever present problems that tuberculosis presents, and the need to incorporate action into all levels of health policy and programming.
“To make TB a disease of the past, we need to turn declarations into deeds and promises into programmes.” -Lucy Chesire