In 2015, tuberculosis affected 10.4 million people around the world and killed 1.8 million people, making it the most lethal infectious disease in the world, surpassing even HIV. In view of this alarming problem, in December of 2016 the United Nations took a historic step in the fight against the disease and agreed to hold the first High-level Meeting on Tuberculosis in 2018, with the intention of agreeing on policies and joining forces to reach the end of the pandemic.
The meeting, which will take place on September 26 in New York, will have the highest level of participation from different nations around the world, in order to ‘approve a concise and action-oriented political declaration, previously agreed by consensus through negotiations intergovernmental organizations’. The resultant political statement has the power to change the course of the response to tuberculosis and will mark the plan of action in the fight against the disease for years to come.
For this reason, more than 200 patient organizations, NGOs – including Salud por Derecho-, health professionals, human rights lawyers and activists around the world have signed this letter addressed to, among others, the Co-Chair and the Vice-president of the Meeting and to the office of the Secretary General of the UN, to remind them that it is possible to end tuberculosis, but only with a focus on human rights.
In the letter, 12 commitments are claimed; among them: the implementation and enforcement of regional and international laws and policies focused on human rights; specific objectives regarding access to medicines, the testing or research of new drugs for resistant strains of the disease; economic contributions to close the resource gap that exists today in the fight against tuberculosis (1.3 billion dollars per year); or the social contracting of civil society organizations that work to protect the human rights of the most vulnerable populations.
Only by focusing on the human rights of the populations most affected by tuberculosis can we forge a path that leads to the end of this deadly pandemic by 2030, an objective outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals signed at the United Nations by all the countries of the world in September 2015.