“Don’t Talk About Us. Talk to Us.”

Alison Root — June 8, 2011 – 1:38 pm

That was one of the key messages of the In Women’s Words event sponsored by UN Women and UN AIDS in collaboration with the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS and the ATHENA Network as the United Nations’ high level meeting on HIV/AIDS got underway in NY this week. The session focused on focused on the specific needs of women in girls in the fight against HIV. The panel featured prominent speakers such as UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe. Dissapointingly, though the speeches were moving and passionate, there little mention of tuberculosis (TB) - the 3rd largest killer of women worldwide and the biggest killer of those living with HIV/AIDS. 

TB and AIDS have formed a super-epidemic which disproportionately impacts pregnant women and the poor.  As highlighted in ACTION’s brief on women and tuberculosis, of the 3.6 million women who developed TB in 2008, 500,000 are now dead.  HIV infection greatly exacerbates the risk of contracting TB, putting women between 15 and 44 and their children at a dual risk. Furthermore, TB infection during pregnancy makes interventions to prevent mother to child transmission less likely to succeed.

One loud voice on the panel challenged this - Alicia Keys. Kudos to Keys, co-founder of Keep a Child Alive and to those who support her work there for highlighting this issue and putting themselves forward as critical leaders on a holistic fight to save women and families.

Keys and Keep a Child Alive well know - what so many others seem yet to understand - that by integrating TB-HIV services which focus on effectively diagnosing and treating people for TB, and increasing access to TB preventative therapy for people living with HIV, we can save a million additional lives by 2015. That would be an 80% reduction in deaths!

The Stop TB Partnership in cooperation with UNAIDS and the WHO released scientific modeling on Monday - a blueprint for saving these million lives. Now it is time for leaders and for all of us to take ACTION!  

Read our brief on Women and TB.