This past week I have been travelling for various meetings and had the chance to meet up with a friend and fellow activist Thokozile Phiri, a Malawian advocate on HIV/AIDS and TB issues. Thoko is the TB-HIV Manager at the Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association, a member of the Communities Delegation to the Global Fund and since 2010 has served as a community representative in the New TB diagnostics working group of the Stop TB Partnership (World Health Organization). Thoko is also a member of the Here I am Campaign as an Ambassador -- you can see her video about being a Campaign Ambassador here:
I've known Thoko for five years and have worked with her on many initiatives. Thoko's experience with TB and HIV is deeply personal and dates back to 1997, when she lost her father to TB, to 2008 when she lost her brother to the same HIV through 2008, and 2011, when her mother passed from what was suspected to be TB. Thoko speaks with passion about the life-changing moments that she has witnessed in Malawi, which is known for high TB-HIV co-infection, but where the paradigm has shifted so that many of her fellow citizens are now accessing anti-retroviral therapy (ART), thanks to Global Fund support.
As I've mentioned before, the Here I Am campaign is a global call on world leaders to save millions of lives by supporting a fully-funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. One of the ways our campaign hopes to bring that message forward is through Campaign Ambassadors.
Campaign Ambassadors are people from the grassroots who are directly affected or infected by AIDS, TB or malaria and who can speak to the impact that Global Fund investments have made on their lives, the lives of their families and of their communities. Thoko is a passionate advocate for others and works every day to support and encourage dialogue and action between government, public health and faith communities on TB and HIV. Thoko believes that the 548,000 deaths mentioned in the recently released WHO Report on TB should not be happening in the 21st Century. She is proud of the Global Fund, a multi-lateral agency, that has helped bridge the gap -- yet the fight is far from being won.
When we caught up this past week, Thoko and I talked about many things, but particularly her very busy week ahead as the Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association hosts the Global Race to Save Lives from HIV and AIDS International Conference in Lilongwe, Malawi from October 23 to 26. It is a critical time for patients, advocates, healthcare professionals and decision-makers to be talking about the themes of the conference: "Towards the three zeros: zero new HIV infections, zero HIV related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination."
As always when I have the chance to catch up with fellow advocates, I am motivated by the work of so many and wanted to introduce Thoko this week as she and her colleagues and several hundred delegates gather in Lilongwe to go over information on research and best practices to inform and inspire in the race to save lives from AIDS and end the disease.
To learn more about the Here I Am Campaign Ambassadors visit the website.
For more information on the Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association, visit their website.
For more information on the Global Race to Save Lives from HIV and AIDS International Conference, visit their website.
About the Here I Am campaign: The Here I Am campaign is a global call on world leaders to save millions of lives by supporting a fully funded Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Here I Am brings the voices of people that are directly affected by AIDS, TB and malaria into dialogue about decisions that affect their lives and the lives of millions of others in their countries. Through video testimonies from all over the world, campaign ambassador advocacy, online actions and on-the-ground mobilizations, the Here I Am campaign is building collective power to end three of the world's most deadly diseases.
Follow Lucy Chesire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HereIAmCampaign