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TB Notes Newsletter

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No. 1, 2012


TB Tales

REACH is a non-profit organization based in Chennai, India, that has been dedicated to the fight against TB in India for more than 10 years. The REACH Lilly MDR-TB Partnership Media Program is an initiative of REACH, supported by the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership. (The Lilly MDR-TB Partnership is a public-private initiative led by Eli Lilly and Company. It is working to address the expanding crisis of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB together with 17 global health and development organizations, academic institutions, and private companies.) REACH aims to harness the power of media to inform the public about preventing, controlling, and curing TB. In November 2011, the Program announced a short film competition for Indian filmmakers, TB Tales.

TB TalesThe competition did not require an entry fee and was open to all filmmakers across India, including students, amateur and professional filmmakers, and health care providers. Entries had to be between 30 seconds and 5 minutes long, with dialogue either in English or with English subtitles. Silent films, often more powerful than those with dialogue, were also eligible. All styles — e.g., fiction, documentary, drama, docudrama, animation — were welcomed. Any format, including films shot on mobile phones, would be considered.

The top three entries will receive citations and cash awards; the first-place prize (in rupees) is Rs 30,000 (about $600 USD), second place is Rs 20,000 (about $400 USD), and third place is Rs 10,000 (about $200 USD). REACH plans to feature the top 10 films on a dedicated YouTube channel.

The competition closed on January 15. A total of 24 entries, in several different languages, were received. Jury members include Suriya, actor; Gautham Menon, film director; Dr. P R Narayanan, Former Director, Tuberculosis Research Centre; Blessina Kumar, activist and Vice Chair, Stop TB Partnership Board; and Dr. Subhash Yadav, Technical Officer, The Union Southeast Asia Regional Office. An announcement of the winners is anticipated by February 15.

“We hope that this initiative, supported by the Lilly MDR-TB Partnership, will help improve understanding about this disease, thereby providing accurate information to TB patients and connecting them to services,” said Dr. Nalini Krishnan, Director, REACH. Added Anurag Khera, Director, Corporate Affairs, Eli Lilly and Company (India): “We believe that the graphic power of films can change perceptions and influence behavior. Films can be a very useful and effective medium for attaining and supporting our quest for better TB care and control.”

To learn more about REACH and to view the winning and short listed films, visit Speak up to Stop TB at

—Submitted by Linette McElroy

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TB Rough Riders

see caption for more detail
Pictured left to right: Debbie Williams, Diana Fortune, Ayesha Bashir, Sarah Yazzie. Photo taken at sunset at Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.

The TB Rough Riders blazed a trail (in our Ford Bronco), November 28–December 2, 2011, through the Navajo Nation. The intrepid four provided TB education for 86 health professionals including clinicians, hospital and clinic nurses, and TB staff, in eight service units crossing two states and one nation, covering over 1200 miles.

Sarah Yazzie, Navajo Nation TB Program Manager, partnered with the New Mexico (NM) Department of Health and the Arizona (AZ) Department of Health to provide TB education to all eight Navajo Nation Service Units to address an increase in TB morbidity and mortality across the Navajo Nation.  The presentations were given by Ayesha Bashir, MD, and Debbie Williams, RN, from the AZ Department of Health, and Deborah Isaacks, RN, BSN, and Diana Fortune, RN, BSN, from the NM Department of Health. Each 2-hour session included TB 101, TB Infection Control Practices, How to Become TB Lab Savvy, TB Contact Investigation Strategies, and TB Nurse Case Management.

The on-site educational campaign is part of an overall effort by the Navajo Nation and the NM Department of Health to address the increased TB mortality that was noted during the 2007–2009 study completed in New Mexico. Navajo patients were one of two groups identified as high risk for TB mortality. The study cited two reasons that related to increased risk: 1) patient delay in seeking treatment and 2) delay in clinician diagnosis.

The TB Rough Riders will continue to collaborate to address TB throughout the Navajo Nation.

—Reported by Diana Fortune, RN, BSN
TB Nurse Consultant
and TB Program Manager (acting)
NM Department of Health

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They Go to Die: Portrayal of the TB/HIV Epidemic Among Mine Workers in South Africa

Jonathan Smith says he is not a film maker; he’s a researcher – an epidemiologist to be exact. But, the buzz created by the screening of his short documentary, They Go to Die, at the 42nd UNION World Conference on Lung Health in Lille, France, in October 2011 suggests he might be both.
Poster of "They Go to Die" film The work-in-progress film is a real-life account of Smith’s journey as he learns about the devastating impact of the South African gold mining industry on the TB/HIV epidemic there, and the blatant human rights violations that these workers face. As he sorts through a century of documented research on the issue, he comes to the sober realization that any further research on the issue will fail to enact change. Thus he begins his quest to find the mineworkers affected by this process.

Initially only driven by the data that highlight the importance of this issue, Smith travels to rural South Africa to live among and get to know four ex-miners and their families. He quickly discovers that their lives are more complex than simply “numbers” that fill the pages of an academic journal. As the film follows the never-before-seen lives of these miners, the viewer is made aware of the challenges that each miner faces in health and family life, and witnesses Smith’s personal change as he overcomes cultural differences to create a personal bond with the men and their families. Despite this revolution, the film ends with the reality of the health situation of these men, and brings to life the gripping reality and importance of lack of access to essential medicines.

“Simply portraying an epidemic through the lens of a camera has been done before and continues to have limited effectiveness, even when those affected are the ones speaking about the disease and telling their personal stories. But if we turn an epidemic into an emotion, then we motivate change,” says Smith.

They Go to Die explores the epidemics in the broader context of human life, instead of through only a narrow context of disease. It portrays the life of the individual as a whole, not solely the disease by which they are affected. It surfaces issues of health, human rights, and legal issues in the form of human relationships. In doing so, the film creates both a cathartic and educational experience. As a viewer from the rough-cut screening observed, “The strength of [the film] is that it doesn’t focus on disease and death, but rather the lives that TB and HIV take away.”

In October 2011, Smith received an international award for his documentary and website. He was awarded the Tuberculosis Survival Prize at an awards ceremony in Lille, France. The annual award is given by the Tuberculosis Survival Project, with support from the Lilly MDR‐TB Partnership.

Mr. Smith, an epidemiologist and lecturer at Yale University, began working on the video documentary while conducting epidemiological research on multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB in the mining industry. With no film experience, but plenty of heart and determination, he worked two jobs to fund his trip to South Africa, where he spent several months living with four miners coinfected with TB and HIV.

To view the documentary and related film clips and to learn more about the project, visit

—Submitted by Linette McElroy

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