When we were commissioned to produce some promotional films for our new client ACTION, I was intrigued to research into what the company does. They are a partnership of a few locally-positioned organisations all over the world that advocate for life-saving care for millions of people who are threatened by preventable diseases like tuberculosis. So a pretty important company to exist in the grand scheme of things….
‘Over the last six years alone, ACTION partners have helped bring $3 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; $5 billion for Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, to support poor countries in immunizing half a billion children; and $3 billion for the long-neglected fight against undernutrition’.
To most, these are just a lot of big numbers and words that are hard to comprehend when you aren’t used to being exposed to these kind of diseases on a daily basis. So when I got to meet and interview two TB survivors it really hit home how many people are really affected by these awful diseases and how they are destroying lives every few seconds.
The films we produced for ACTION are mini case studies of people who have contracted the disease Tuberculosis, to be launched on World TB day in March to help raise awareness. The only time I’d ever really been informed about Tuberculosis was in school and even then it was a case of sticking a needle in my arm and telling me this will protect me from ever getting it. Back then I obviously didn’t feel the need to delve into the world of TB but now I had the perfect excuse.
TB is a serious infection that affects the lungs mostly but in some cases it can affect the bones and nervous system. The bacterial disease is passed on through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. For healthy humans, if infected, the immune system will fight it off and kill any horrible bacteria but in cases where the immune system is weak due to poor health, other infections or bad living conditions, the disease will spread around the body and can only be cured through treatment. The areas in the world most affected are Africa, Russia, South East Asia, China and South America and around 10 million people a year will die from the disease – some seriously shocking statistics
My job can literally take me anywhere but for this one filming took place in the cosmopolitan city of Liverpool where the 47th Union World Lung conference was homed over the course of a week. Thousands of clinicians and public health workers, policymakers, researchers and advocates from all around the world flocked to the conference to review what is being done to end the TB epidemic. It was really great to see the amount of people invested in putting a stop to this hideous disease and I felt weirdly honored that I got to experience part of that.
My first interviewee was Timur from Uzbekistan who had survived TB twice and is HIV positive. He was very open and honest about his struggles with the disease and how it had affected him and his family. He went into details about the long periods of treatment, medications and how he was lucky to be alive – especially after the second time. He was extremely vocal about the promotion of awareness of this awful disease and that not enough was being done to end the fight against TB. He also mentioned that there is a severe lack of awareness for people who have HIV and how there is a much higher risk because their weakened immune systems cannot handle an infection like TB. His strength and frankness about his experience were really quite striking.
My second interview was with a woman called Timpiyian from Kenya who had survived TB and now educates people on the disease. She was very passionate about making people understand what it is, how it’s carried and passed on and the simple things that people can do to help stop the spread of the disease. Her diagnosis and experience with TB was a lot more traumatic because of where she lived. She mentioned that it was a huge stigma in her community and a lot of people neglected her once they found out she had the disease. She is now doing an amazing job of starting to remove that stigma and raising awareness of the cause of TB and what can be done to prevent it in the first place.
I came away from this shoot feeling lucky to have interviewed two very strong people who are now using their traumatic experiences for good, helping others through tough times and raising awareness about TB. This is what I love about my job, I get transported into completely different worlds from day to day and get to meet so many different types of people along the way!!
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