Mike Frick of Treatment Action Group Discusses His Work
January 6, 2014
What attracted you to TAG?
The opportunity to conduct science-based advocacy drew me to TAG. Before joining TAG, I was working on health and human-rights advocacy in East and Southeast Asia. In the course of this work, I realized the urgent need for rights activists to engage directly with scientists, research institutions, and public-health agencies and to carry a strong understanding of the science underlying their area of disease focus into these engagements. I feel very committed to TAG's mission of conducting advocacy at the intersection of science, government, and the public. As a resident of China for several years, and as the grandson of Kentucky tobacco farmers, I feel a particular commitment to advocacy promoting lung health. TAG's work on TB really reflects these professional and personal interests.
What are the key focus areas of your team?
The TB/HIV project at TAG has two broad areas of focus: advocacy for research and development of new tools to fight TB and, once these are developed, advocacy to ensure that TB-affected communities have access to these new tools. Within the TB/HIV project, I am focusing on research and development advocacy for new TB vaccines. The current vaccine against TB -- known as BCG -- was introduced in 1921 and offers limited protection against pulmonary TB to adolescents and adults. A safe, more effective vaccine would bring us a lot closer to achieving zero TB deaths, new infections, and suffering. I also coordinate the Community Research Advisors Group to the U.S. CDC's Tuberculosis Trials Consortium, which gives me the opportunity to work directly with strong TB activists from around the world on issues related to TB drug development.
What are the biggest issues facing TB at this point in the epidemic?
TB programmers are using twentieth-century technologies to address a pathogen that has embraced twenty-first-century globalization and continues to evolve resistance to our existing arsenal of drugs. Not only are the tools available to fight TB out of date, but the framework in which they are employed ignores the needs and voices of people with TB. There is an urgent need to introduce patient-centered care into TB treatment so that it becomes more flexible and responsive to the complexities of TB disease. Listening to people with TB will go a long way toward building the levels of political will necessary to achieve scientific breakthroughs and avert the nearly nine million new cases and 1.4 million deaths due to TB each year.
This article was provided by Treatment Action Group.
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