"We cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB." -Nelson Mandela
In 1988, during the period of apartheid, Nelson Mandela contracted tuberculosis (TB) while imprisoned at Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, South Africa. Fortunately, his strain of TB was treated and cured before the disease reached an advanced stage, but the experience left an indelible imprint on him.
Since that time, he has sought to increase awareness about the dangerous implications of TB for the international community. In 2004, while speaking at the 15th International AIDS Conference, Nelson Mandela sent a powerful message to the world: "We cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB. TB is too often a death sentence for people with AIDS."
With the emergence of dangerous forms of drug-resistant TB, Mandela's 2004 appeal for coordinated TB and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is more pressing than ever. Today, TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDS, and South Africa has the largest percentage of individuals co-infected with HIV and TB worldwide. The drugs for effective treatment of standard TB have been available for more than 50 years, and Mandela observes that "what we have lacked is the will and the resources to quickly diagnose people with TB and get them the treatment that they need."
In a life dedicated to overcoming adversity and injustice, time and time again, Nelson Mandela has refused to quit as he relentlessly presses for social changes and shifts in political will. Nowhere are the themes of his life more applicable than in the fight against tuberculosis.