Sarah is a seven-year-old darling with big dimples and a few
missing teeth. She smiles at me across the desk in our HIV clinic
room after I slip her some rainbow heart stickers, and I am smitten
by the flash of dimples and the gaps of no-tooth. I'm trying to
figure out why Sarah is not growing. She has not been gaining
weight like she should, and when I make the nurses measure her, she
is much shorter than she should be.
I start to get more worried the more I talk with her mother as I
learn about how long Sarah has had this terrible cough, how she
seems to have fevers at night, and how her father died two months
ago of something that sounds like TB to me.
The disease that kills most of our HIV-infected patients in
Kenya is not HIV. What is killing them is an infection that is both
preventable and curable. The infection that kills them is not only
a concern for people with HIV; it is an infection that kills 4,000
people around the globe every day. TB.
And I am worried that Sarah has TB.
Tomorrow is World TB Day. We should be able to wipe out TB. HIV
is still such a challenge for us to figure out how to prevent or
how to cure, but we know what to do about TB. If everyone could
access TB care, we could quickly move to having no deaths from TB.
We could keep those 4,000 Sarahs alive and well.
I can imagine a world without any deaths from TB, and it is a
good world. It is a world where my kids in Kenya thrive and grow
and go to school and live healthier, more productive lives. It is a
world where I do not have to worry so much that Sarah will not live
to give me and her mother more dimpled, toothless smiles.
something about TB tomorrow, on March 24, on World TB Day.