CAPE TOWN, 5th DECEMBER 2015: Today activists disrupted the calm halls of the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health. Activists from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), SECTION27, the Global TB Community Advisory Board, the Global Coalition of TB Activists (GCTA) and the ITPC sat on the floors of the hallways and held their own plenary session in huge disappointment at the “business as usual” status quo of the Union.
“The Union are proud that they have ‘acted for 100 years’, but what is there to be proud of? TB remains the top killer in South Africa with over 80,000 TB deaths recorded every year. Worldwide, 1.5 million people died of TB in 2014, the reality is that some of us here today will die of TB,” said Anele Yawa, General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
The Union continues to reiterate the importance of a patient-centred approach to end TB. However, we continue to see how DOTS is promoted as the gold standard, obligating patients around the world to go everyday to the clinics and have their lives devoted to the health system, when it should be the other way around. We keep hearing how community health workers are fundamental, but they keep being unrecognized underpaid –if paid at all –and requested to work seven days a week for the good of their communities with no compensation and only awarded with good words and intentions.
“Community health workers are doing the bulk of the work to ensure people with TB are getting the treatment they need and deserve. They must be employed under dignified, unionised, fair working conditions,” said Mark Heywood from SECTION27.
The “community plenary” heard from activists from South Africa, India, Ukraine, Kenya, the United States and many other countries across the world who are fed up with the status quo and demand a stronger response to TB.
“People in our communities are dying – yet the Union is congratulating themselves for a job well done. We say enough is enough! When are we going to address the social and economic drivers of this pandemic? When are we going to see ambitious science and game-changing data at this meeting? No more business as usual!” said Blessi Kumar from the Global Coalition of TB Activists (GCTA).
There are too many “high-level panels” heavy on opinion and light on new scientific findings. There has to be an ATTITUDE change if we are to move the needle. The activists therefore demand a conference that focuses on presenting more new science and actual data with less bureaucratic high level opinion from people based in low burden countries.
Source: Treatment Action Campaign