Sometimes you are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. When things come together like they did Monday night the difference can literally mean millions of lives. That is, without exaggeration, how I felt as I listened to leaders of government, cultural icons, and others gathered at the U.N. share the news about new scientific modeling from the Stop TB Partnership in conjunction with UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO), which shows that it is possible in the next four years to avert over one million deaths from HIV and tuberculosis (TB).
'It is possible to avert one million deaths' was the phrase being repeated throughout the room. Lucy Chesire, a well known AIDS and TB activist, made everyone raise his or her hand and swear to do their bit. But not everyone needed to achieve the goal was in the room. Now we must all do our part to reach decision-makers and support them to take action.
The STOP TB modeling was released just as government, civil society, and health leaders gather in New York City for the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. This important modeling, a blueprint for saving lives from the world's most devastating viral epidemic -- AIDS -- and the world's most devastating bacterial epidemic -- TB -- comes on the heels of a game-changing new AIDS study, which not only demonstrates that providing early antiretroviral HIV therapy (ART) reduces the spread of HIV by 96 percent, it also dramatically reduces the risk of developing TB.
Both of these life-saving breakthroughs in knowledge come at a time when leadership on AIDS and resources for AIDS are increasingly at risk. While we have made historic progress against AIDS over the last 30 years, unless we get smart about increasing investments and leveraging the opportunities these studies provide -- unless we scale up ART and treat HIV and TB as a single disease -- we will not only stop progress against HIV and TB -- we stand to lose previous gains.
The save one million lives modeling describes the anticipated result of more effectively diagnosing and treating people with TB and improving access to TB preventive therapy among people living with HIV. The modeling combines the best the world has to offer in science, economic efficiency, and moral outrage. This collective work between Stop TB Partnership, WHO and UNAIDS showcases collaboration that truly changes the world -- we need more of this type of joined-up action to save lives! We can start with this first additional million.
We will hear soaring speeches from world leaders on AIDS this week. Once the speeches are over however, leaders will need to take concrete action on what they have learned is possible in the next four years. Donor country leaders must contribute necessary funding and high-burden country leaders must deliver the basic services that will save lives.
Saving an additional one million lives is everyone's responsibility. Even those reading about TB-HIV for the first time can join with activists and take a quick action right now -- tweet, donate, and educate yourself and your leaders -- ask them to commit to saving at least a million lives from TB-HIV by 2015!
Advocacy to Control Tuberculosis Internationally (ACTION) is an international partnership of advocates working to mobilize resources to treat and prevent the spread of tuberculosis (TB), a global disease that kills one person every 20 seconds and is the 3rd largest killer of women worldwide. ACTION is a project of the RESULTS Educational Fund.
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