“As TB champions, we must also be human rights champions…” The Union’s Executive Director calls for a human rights-led response to TB at New York summit.

José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union, joined an expert panel to discuss the development of innovative interventions for tuberculosis (TB) prevention and care, tailored to the situation in New York City (NYC). The panel, entitled ‘Bending the Curve – Ending TB in NYC’, was the plenary session at ‘The Tuberculosis Summit: Moving towards a TB-free NYC’, held on 29 June 2018. 

José gave a global perspective on a disease that, despite being curable, kills 1.7 million people annually. Keen to stress the critical importance of a human-rights led approach, he said: “Our current political climate—here in the US and globally—makes it even more important that we engage political leaders, educate them properly about TB in the US within the context of the global epidemic—and advocate for humane and effective solutions.

“We must establish human rights as the guiding framework for the TB response in this country, and in all countries. That is the only way we can effectively champion the cause of TB elimination in solidarity with people and communities affected by TB. Champions for TB must be champions for human rights.”

Illustrating an approach rooted in human rights as the only effective and ethical option, he pointed to the ‘silent’ TB epidemic among children. “About a quarter of a million children die from TB annually…and one of the reasons children with TB are dying at these obscene rates is because they contribute almost nothing to the spread of the disease. The global response has focused on stopping TB transmission. In the process, children have been left off the agenda.”

The Union recently produced an advocacy report on child TB - Silent Epidemic: A Call to Action Against Child Tuberculosis - exposing the issue and looking at the international treaties and global frameworks that should guarantee children’s right to health.

Speaking with an eye on the upcoming first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB on 26 September, José added, “Building political commitment to end TB requires us to do some things. We need to engage political leaders. We also need to create more public visibility of TB. And in doing both of these things, we must persuade political leaders that TB is an urgent problem, and that we have effective solutions they can implement.”

Joining José on the plenary session panel was: Joseph Burzynski, MD, MPH, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Margaret J. Oxtoby, MD, Director, Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, New York State Department of Health; Phil LoBue, MD, Director, Division of TB Elimination, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Jane Coyne, MBA, Tuberculosis Programs Director, Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Tuberculosis at UCSF. The session was moderated by Alfred Lardizabal, MD, Executive Director, Global Tuberculosis Institute.

The summit was attended by policy makers, thought leaders, innovators and public health experts and was organised by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Bureau of Tuberculosis Control.

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