British singer Craig David is the latest star to become a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador against tuberculosis.

The star promises to lead the fight against the curable disease that claims over 1.8 million lives around the world each year by raising awareness of the disease and minimizing the stigma attached to it.

“As a role model through my music, people really do listen to what I say,” he said. At the age of 28, he said that he hopes to reach young people and “speak in a way that I think people will actually understand.”

The British artist travelled to South Africa earlier this month to see first-hand how the disease is impacting the country, where there are nearly 500,000 new TB cases annually out of a total population of close to 50 million.

“It’s been an incredible learning curve for me along the way,” he said. “So to be able to give back in something that I feel very passionate about is something that I wanted to do.”

David said that he seeks to draw attention to the nature of TB, beyond the acronym itself, in the face of ever-increasing awareness of HIV and AIDS.

Tuberculosis is the second biggest infectious killer of adults around the world and is also one of the top three killers of women of reproductive age.

It is vital, the singer stressed, to “bridge the gap,” to “not overlook the poor who are suffering from TB, but at the same time in the developed countries,” where instances of the disease are on the upswing.

In South Africa, Mr. David met with researchers who are trying to shorten the course of medication, which can range from six months to up to two years for drug-resistant forms of TB.

He also visited two schools, one in a poor area and one in a richer area, finding the awareness of the disease to be very different.

In the poor school, he said, children were aware of the disease, but scared to come forward given its stigma, while in the school in the wealthier zone, students expressed the sentiment of “it’s in the poorer areas so I’m sure they’ll be able to deal with it.”

As Goodwill Ambassador for the Stop TB Partnership backed by the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Mr. David said he hopes to travel to all areas of the world facing major TB outbreaks to spread awareness.

“My voice is the most important part that I’ve been given,” he said. “So why not use that positively rather than think that it’s just [for] music?”

The announcement of his appointment coincides with World Tuberculosis Day, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling for momentum to be maintained in the fight against the deadly disease.

Source: United Nations

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