TB Patients Deserve Dignity, Freedom and Justice: All Must Have It

Today is Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, the annual rallying point for the growing movement towards health for all. UHC Day marks the anniversary of the United Nations’ historic and unanimous endorsement of universal health coverage in 2012. It comes just two days after Human Rights Day that is commemorated on 10 December each year, in recognition of the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Tuberculosis (TB), one of the world’s top infectious killers, overwhelmingly affects marginalized people and communities, who are often also faced with poverty, stigma and discrimination, and social exclusion. TB-related catastrophic costs impact a significant proportion of people with TB, pushing many of them further into poverty. People-centred, quality and timely services for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care for TB are a basic human right.

The “protection and promotion of human rights, ethics and equity” is a fundamental principle of WHO’s End TB Strategy At the 2018 United Nations General-Assembly High-Level Meeting on the Fight Against Tuberculosis, Member States committed to advancing universal health coverage and promoting an end to stigma and all forms of discrimination, including by removing discriminatory laws, policies and programmes against people with TB, and through the protection and promotion of human rights and dignity.

“Ending TB requires a lot more than just treating the disease, it requires a people-centred approach responsive to all the needs of people with TB”, remarked the Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, Dr Tereza Kasaeva. “We will continue to work with countries to improve universal access to TB services that protect and promote human rights and dignity of people with TB, as part of our collective effort towards universal health coverage”

To ensure human rights-based, people- centred services for people with TB, WHO’s Global TB Programme is working with countries to advance universal access to quality TB services, free from discrimination. This is being ensured right from the planning stage, through the roll out of WHO’s recently released guidance on national strategic planning for TB, to addressing the financial impact of the disease on people and families, and by enhancing the engagement of other sectors to ensure comprehensive support for people with TB and their families. WHO, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO), is finalizing the development of the Guidance for Social Protection for People Affected by TB, to prevent and mitigate costs incurred by people with TB and their households.

WHO’S Civil Society Taskforce on TB has also been working extensively in countries to combat stigma and discrimination, through the engagement of TB survivors for high-level advocacy at global, regional and national levels, amplifying the voices of many who have faced TB-related stigma.

A statement made by WHO’s Civil Society Taskforce on TB noted, “Civil society and TB-affected community-led organizations are working towards protecting the rights of people affected by TB and TB survivors through capacity-building, implementation of human rights scorecards, and advocacy towards policy and legal reform. This is in line with translating into action the human rights-related commitments from the 2018 Political Declaration of the UN General-Assembly High-Level Meeting on the Fight Against Tuberculosis. The challenge now is for Member States to recognize these actions and draw from the results of these actions to transform existing TB responses towards a more rights-based approach that respects the dignity of TB survivors and TB-affected communities and ensures people-centered TB care.”

Public Release. More on this here.