As diseases go TB has a bit of an image problem. It lacks the “sexiness” of other conditions, especially that of HIV which can boast some very high profile and famous people who are willing to try and make a difference. Unfortunately TB just doesn’t attract the same kind of support from the great and the good.
Of course there is World TB Day on March 24th every year. We may also try to piggy-back on World AIDS Day on December 1st, but other than that there seems little obvious opportunity to “sell” TB as a story to news editors who always want to get that new angle.
I know that there are a growing number of TB advocates and activists who are passionate about what they do. I sometimes wonder what the impact on TB as a disease would be if that passion could be properly conveyed to the wider general public and even more so if they started to feel passionate about TB too? We absolutely should always be looking out for opportunities to engage with the media beyond World TB Day. We should also try and find better ways convey human interest stories to engage as many people as possible on a deeper emotional level, so that they can’t help but care.
TB like many conditions has been perceived differently over the decades and centuries past. In terms of “branding”, a word that seems inappropriate to use in the context of a disease, but the best one to convey what I mean, TB did used to have an image that could be construed as a “positive” one. Think about the creative and artists of the past who had TB, especially writers who were directly influenced by their experience such as John Keats, Katherine Mansfield, the Bronte sisters, George Orwell, Chekhov, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow reconnect with this perception? It is easy to publish written work on platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle at no cost whatsoever. Lack of funding isn’t an excuse! I’d really like to see perhaps a new literature prize or competition that motivated people with TB to write again about their experience of TB, to find a new generation of modern ‘consumptive’ writers that could engage with the world in the same way as some of our greatest writers have done historically. If anyone would like to try and take this concept forward, let me know!