PBS’ Frontline recently came out with a documentary, “TB Silent Killer,” directed by Jezza Neumann, which follows the lives of people from Swaziland, Nokubheka, Bheki and Gcebile, who are all living with tuberculosis.
Approximately one-third of the world’s population is infected with TB, and diabetes or HIV can make it much more likely to become active disease. And it’s not just adults who suffer through the stigma and pain of the disease. A new study shows that TB affects children more than previously thought – about one million kids develop active TB every year
Although this film is extremely hard to watch, I highly recommend this eye-opening piece, no matter how long you’ve been an activist, talked about TB, or been a ONE member.
Not only does the film depict the personal struggles and hardships for these three brave individuals, it shows the pain and anguish that TB brings to family members.
It also gives insight as to why so many individuals infected with TB quit the grueling medication regimen, which often comes along with severe side effects like extreme vomiting or loss of hearing. When this happens, patients make themselves vulnerable to mutations of the disease that cannot be treated with drugs, such as MDR-TB, or worse XDR-TB.
Personally, I found the film shocking, even after working in global development for two years. Nokubkeka’s story was particularly moving. When she was diagnosed with TB, she was moved to a hospital more than two hours away from her family. As a 12-year-old, she found the hospital isolating and almost prison-like. She didn’t have anyone to play with, couldn’t choose the food she ate, and didn’t get to see her family for months on end. And because of her status, she was not allowed to leave the premises to see the outside world.
It’s stories like hers that remind me why documentaries like these are so important to watch.
The next time I visit my member of Congress in support of The Global Fund or PEPFAR, I will make sure to tell them the stories I heard from “TB Silent Killer.” I will tell them that none of these individuals – not Nokubheka, not Bheki, not Gcebile – would likely be alive without medication, which was probably funded through these programs or programs like these.
This film is a great reminder to each of you that lobbying for these lifesaving programs really is making a huge difference, and they are indeed saving lives. I think we can all agree on the fact that it’s important to advocate for the health and wellbeing of those who cannot advocate on behalf of themselves.
To add to that, I personally can find it hard to get behind a cause or a movement when I can’t actually see the direct outcome, but watching this film brought it all back home for me and reiterated why I got involved with ONE in the first place, as I’m sure it will do the same for you – advocacy at its finest.
That being said, watch the film, cry a little (okay a lot), and pat yourself on the back for continuing to help in the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases.
Did you watch the film? Tell us what you think in a comment below.