"Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) sounds a clamorous warning: without the political will to control TB, we will not only fail to defeat HIV but may enable the rise of an incurable, airborne disease." - Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has devoted his life to fighting poverty, injustice, and inequality and advancing ideas of forgiveness and cooperation. As an ordained priest in the Anglican Church, and later as the Archbishop of Cape Town, he was instrumental in promoting non-violent resistance to apartheid and the repeal of racially discriminatory South African laws. In 1984, Archbishop Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. In 1994, newly elected President Nelson Mandela asked Archbishop Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and investigate the human rights violations of the previous 34 years in South Africa.
Perhaps less well-known than his apartheid activism, is Archbishop Tutu's role as a leading champion in the fight against tuberculosis (TB). At 14, Archbishop Tutu contracted tuberculosis and endured a 20-month long hospital stay before he was well enough to return home. As a survivor of the disease, Archbishop Tutu knows first-hand how crucial TB treatment and prevention is to the health of the people in South Africa as well as to the rest of the world.
In 2010, South Africa had the third highest number of TB cases worldwide, estimated at just under a half a million. Of those infected with TB, 60 percent in South Africa are also co-infected with HIV. But "remember that we are not talking just statistics," he reminds us. "We're talking about people of flesh and blood. We're talking about someone who is somebody's son, somebody's father, somebody's brother."
Archbishop Tutu has fervently advocated for TB control for people around the world. He is also the namesake of a TB research center at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and has and supported and participated in advocacy efforts by ACTION partners and allies to mobilize increased resources for TB control.
"TB is the child of poverty but also its parent and provider," Archbishop Tutu iterates. "If we are to do something about AIDS, then we have to do something about TB. If we are to do something about TB, we are going to have to do something about AIDS. As we have overcome apartheid, so we shall defeat TB and HIV/AIDS, these ungodly twin killers."