“I want my daughter to be safe from TB”

This blog was originally posted by RESULTS Australia, an ACTION partner.

In the lead up to World TB Day on 24 March, RESULTS International (Australia) is highlighting the urgent need for a strategic regional response to the threat of tuberculosis, and for more investment in new vaccines and treatments to bring an end to this sometimes forgotten disease.

Each year 9 million people worldwide get sick and are debilitated as a result of TB and its antiquated treatments, one in three cannot access treatment, and one in six will die. Some 56% of new TB cases occur in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. There is also a growing threat of multi-drug resistant TB, with some 480,000 cases occurring in 2013. It is already impacting people on Australia’s doorstep in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar.

RESULTS International has brought to Australia an impressive young woman, Eloisa ‘Louie’ Zepeda from the Philippines, whose life was devastated by multi-drug resistant tuberculosis meningitis at 25 when she was an up-and-coming architect in Manila. Louie experienced months of pain, paralysis, exhaustion, nausea and psychosis during her treatment. While she was eventually cured of the disease, the treatment left Louie blind (many others are rendered deaf from the treatment). Her plans for the future shattered.

Bit by bit, over the course of many years, dealing with daily discrimination and overcoming ongoing health issues – including the likelihood of infertility – Louie now counts herself lucky. “I’m working, married, a mother, and I’m improving the lives of others through my TB and disability advocacy work,” she said. “The advocacy for eradication of tuberculosis is my primary mission.”

“This shows there is the opportunity to not just reverse the spread of the disease, but to end this epidemic and suffering,” said RESULTS International (Australia) CEO Maree Nutt. “Achieving success will require integrated patient-centred TB care and prevention, bold policies and supportive systems, and intensified research and innovation.”

Louis now works at the Institute for Disability and Public Policy in the Philippines, and is currently researching whether children with autism face difficulties in accessing treatment. “I’m on a conquest, looking for answers” she says.

“In the end, I want my daughter and her eventual children, no matter where they live, to be safe from TB.”