Every Word Counts: TB Language Guide launched in Bangkok in support of the Global Plan Paradigm Shift

On November 3rd 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand – The Stop TB Partnership launched ‘United to End TB: Every Word Counts’ – the first language guide for partners and stakeholders working in Tuberculosis (TB). The 1st edition of the evolving TB language guide can be downloaded here.

“Just as the HIV community avoid using terms such as ‘AIDS control ’ or ‘AIDS suspects’, the TB community should shift to more empowering, people centred language to help bring TB out of the shadows and encourage people to speak about it in their homes, communities, and workplaces.”

The language guide is being launched on the sidelines of meetings of people affected by TB and key populations being convened this week by the Stop TB Partnership in Bangkok, Thailand. The language guide supports the call for change in the upcoming Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020, which includes ‘changing the mindset, language, and dialogue on TB’ as one of the key paradigm shifts required to reach the End TB Goals.

“We will not end TB unless people with TB have a lead role as advocates, as educators, and as leaders, but too often stigma and a huge number of other barriers are preventing people with TB from stepping forward”, said Dr. Lucica Ditiu,  Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership. “The TB community should end language that stigmatises, rather than empowers, people with TB. This  guide comes at a crucial time for the TB community in the lead up to the launch of the Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020 and linked to these important meetings in Bangkok with people affected by TB and key populations.”

A recent article in the British Medical Journal, “End stigmatizing language in tuberculosis research and practice”, notes that despite the growing advocacy movement to stop stigmatising TB language, it remains commonplace in articles, abstracts, and meetings. The authors called for a change in the language used by the scientific and medical communities as a key starting point.

“Unfortunately, stigmatising language is still commonplace in research and practice and the TB community is far behind the AIDS community in embracing language that respects the dignity of people with tuberculosis”, said Ms. Blessina Kumar, Chair of the Global Coalition of TB Activists. “Stigma keeps people with TB in the shadows and is a key reason that over three million with TB go undiagnosed and untreated each year.”

‘Stop the stigma: Eliminating Stigmatising Language’ is just one example of the efforts being undertaken by Stop TB partners around the world to change the conversation on TB. Launched by the Heartland National TB Center (HNTC) in Texas, United States, the campaign asks supporters to pledge to avoid stigmatising language in their publications, services, and meetings and has been endorsed by the U.S. National TB Controllers Association, National Society for TB Physicians, and dozens of state and county TB programs.

Barbara Seaworth, a member of the Community Research Advisors Group and Medical Director of the HNTC, said “We are working to maintain the energy and to continue the focus on not only eliminating stigmatising language which requires a change in focus and practice by TB care providers, but also providing education which can hopefully begin to lessen the stigma which permeates the lives of those affected by this disease.”

To request hard copies, please contact communications@stoptb.org.

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