2023: A Pivotal Year for Global Health – TB cannot be overlooked anymore!

Priyanka Aiyer, Robyn Waite and Timur Abdullaev 

In a landmark year for global health, three significant United Nations High-Level Meetings (UNHLMs) are taking place in 2023: the UNHLM on tuberculosis (TB), the UNHLM on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and the UNHLM on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (PPPR). These interconnected meetings serve as vital platforms for addressing the world’s most pressing health challenges. However, concerns have been raised by TB-affected communities and civil society organizations regarding the ongoing negotiations for the political declarations, which have regressed in the draft for the UNHLM on TB, failing to incorporate strong language around community, human rights, and gender.

At this critical juncture, the global community has an opportunity to listen to the voices of those affected by TB and lay the groundwork for comprehensive, people-centred, and human rights-based health systems. Recognizing that building an effective response to UHC and PPPR requires addressing the burden of TB, it is crucial to acknowledge the profound connections between these health challenges. TB claims millions of lives annually, impeding progress towards equitable healthcare and pandemic preparedness.

The need for a robust Political Declaration for the UNHLM on TB cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, the current draft not only fails to build upon the commitments made in the 2018 political declaration but also lacks strong language around community, human rights, and gender. This regression in language and commitments is deeply troubling, given the urgent need to accelerate efforts to end TB and safeguard the rights and well-being of those affected by the disease.

In response to this urgency, the TB-affected community and civil society have united to endorse a petition advocating for the inclusion of strong language around the aforementioned areas in the political declaration. The petition seeks to ensure that the political declaration not only acknowledges the struggles faced by the community but also incorporates their perspectives and experiences in shaping effective policies and programs.

At the core of the petition is a call for strong language that prioritizes communities. Recognizing the invaluable insights and firsthand knowledge possessed by communities, their inclusion in decision-making processes, planning, and monitoring can foster a truly people-centred approach to TB. The petition also emphasizes the essential role of human rights and gender equality in the global TB response, particularly in addressing the unique challenges faced by marginalized populations, including gender minorities.

As the petition gains momentum, TB-affected communities and civil society organizations remain resolute in their pursuit of meaningful change and want to see policymakers demonstrate their commitment to the global TB response by prioritizing the voices of those affected. Their collective endorsement represents a united front to forge a path towards a more equitable and effective TB response that leaves no one behind.

Moreover, it is essential to ensure that TB is specifically addressed within the political declarations of the UHC and PPPR UNHLMs. TB must not be overlooked as a distinct and urgent health challenge. Its inclusion in these declarations would foster a more comprehensive and holistic approach to achieving universal health coverage and strengthening pandemic preparedness and response efforts.