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Here I Am: Fighting and Beating MDR-TB in Moldova

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Over the last two weeks, a series of meetings were held in Amsterdam in the Netherlands -- advocates and people from the communities affected by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria came together to strategize and decide on courses of action to take in this critical year of replenishing the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The three-day session included presentations from members of the Global Fund Secretariat on the replenishment and communications strategy and from UNAIDS, Stop TB Partnership, Malaria No More and Healthgap about some of the opportunities and challenges in the fields of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria advocacy. Advocates also heard from the new Executive Director of the Global Fund, Mark Dybul, a week into his job and some of his thoughts on the critical road ahead. I had the opportunity to meet many new and some old colleagues and friends who were at these meetings.

One of my new friends is an amazing woman -- Oxana Rucsineanu from Moldova. Through our shared personal experiences with tuberculosis, we connected immediately and realized that we have a shared vision on being part of ending global TB. She impressed me when she said she had to leave her two-month-old son David for the first time with her husband at their home to join the 70 advocates from the Global Fund Advocacy Network in Amsterdam. With committed advocates like Oxana, we can truly make the world free of TB.

Oxana Rucsineanu -- Here I Am Ambassador and MDR-TB survivor from Moldova

Oxana describes her three years of treatment for tuberculosis -- first one year for "regular" TB, then two years for multi-drug resistant TB -- as a "tough personal experience." She speaks about this with a lot of emotions, and I can only but imagine the side effects of three years of treatment and the burden of taking so many pills and injectable drugs.

Her body is now free of TB, but that hasn't stopped Oxana from focusing on TB. With fellow TB patients, Oxana organized a national tuberculosis patients association in her country of Moldova. SMITS (the Moldova Society against Tuberculosis) develops activities to benefit people affected by tuberculosis and engage on issues of how TB is approached in Moldova, to represent communities of people affected with TB and speaks publicly about the necessity of providing social, psychological and legal support to people living with tuberculosis.

Oxana has recently been named one of the Here I Am campaign Ambassadors. As I've mentioned before, Here I Am 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 in their lives, the lives of their families and of their communities.

At the meetings in Amsterdam, Oxana participated in various sessions including an intensive conversation about what activities advocates think HIA Ambassadors like her should be doing in the coming year of Global Fund replenishment to build the case for fully funding the Global Fund. Of this experience, Oxana said before the meetings she didn't realize how difficult it would be to replenish the Fund: in her video she wonders why it is so difficult for people to understand that affected people need their support.

Oxana now has plans to talk to leaders and decision-makers over the coming months to tell her story and that of TB and MDR-TB patients and why it is so important that the Global Fund be fully replenished and remain global.

Hosted by Dutch NGO International Civil Society Support, the Global Fund Advocates Network meetings brought advocates from the North and South to Amsterdam for three days. Together they jointly strategized around the big push needed to mobilize resources both in donor capitals but also in countries where the Global Fund operates to increase domestic resources in the fight against the three diseases. Presentations from the meetings can be found at: www.icssupport.org

Lucy Chesire: TB-HIV advocate from Kenya, Alternate Board Member of the Global Fund BoardCommunities Delegation

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 who 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.www.hereiamcampaign.org