UN Political Declaration Against TB: Time To Translate Words To Action
It was thus a moment of triumph when the United Nations General Assembly's (UNGA) called for the first-ever High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB to endorse a political declaration that aims to strengthen action and investments to end tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a devastating disease.
- Tuberculosis (TB) is a devastating disease
- Treatment of TB (MDR-TB), in private facilities can cost up to 4 lakhs
- We are working towards a TB free India and a TB free world.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a devastating disease. It not only wreaks havoc on physical and mental health, but drives many to the brink of poverty. I meet people affected by TB regularly and am often witness to the difficulties they face in trying to find proper treatment and care. Treatment of multi drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), in private facilities can cost up to 4 lakhs and many patients end up having to take huge loans for the 22-month long treatment which includes painful injections. This is in addition to bearing the terrible side effects of the drugs. This is unfortunately a familiar story for many of India's 147,000 MDR-TB patients who are often forced to make a choice between bankruptcy and death. Civil society groups across the world have long strived to draw the attention of their political leaders toward the terrible plight of TB patients and the need for urgent measures to safeguard patients' right to affordable and quality care.
It was thus a moment of triumph when the United Nations General Assembly's (UNGA) called for the first-ever High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB to endorse a political declaration that aims to strengthen action and investments to end the disease. The global TB community envisaged an inclusive, ambitious and specific target-based declaration to help drive real progress against the End TB goals. In the lead up to the UN HLM, partners across the world came together to draft and share a 'Key Asks' document outlining priority actions that must be endorsed by Heads of States. Efforts to dilute the Declaration was met with stiff resistance from South Africa, other developing countries, civil society and TB affected community. We were eventually successful in retaining these clauses that reaffirmed the commitments to promoting access to affordable medicines and care, for all.
The Declaration has the potential to truly be a game changer for national TB programmes and by extension, transform the fate of TB patients in every corner of the world. With its strongly worded clauses on universalizing access to TB care, greater financing, improving investments in research and establishing review mechanisms, patients and the TB community alike have much to hope for over the coming months and years. One of the most crucial provisions in the Declaration refers to the ongoing development of the multi-sectoral accountability framework which will hopefully demonstrate the way forward for India to create and implement our own transparent and effective accountability mechanisms.
Also read: Is Tuberculosis A Dangerous Disease?
The onus is firmly upon each one of us now to ensure that the Declaration is implemented in letter, as well as, in spirit. For this, stakeholders across the board will need to work in close synergy and find innovative ways to collaborate with the national TB programme. The National TB Forum comprising different stakeholders including the affected community and formed by the Indian health ministry earlier this year, must be actively leveraged to integrate the voices and needs of the TB community. Specifically, participation from civil society in planning and creating reporting mechanisms aligned with the multi-sectoral accountability framework, would be crucial for ensuring that progress in terms of holistic, people centred care is tracked and ensured.
The UN Political Declaration is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, heralding a new age in the battle against TB. We must ensure that it endures as we work towards a TB free India and a TB free world. The lives of millions of TB patients are depending on this.
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