People everywhere, no matter who they are or where they live, have the right to health

On Human Rights Day 2018, The Union highlights the need for greater political action to ensure people have the human right to health in the fight to end tuberculosis (TB) and lung disease.

This year, Human Rights Day marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. This document demonstrates the rights that everyone is inherently entitled to with the declaration that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Despite this right to health, 25 years after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared TB a global epidemic, it is still the leading infectious disease killer in the world. In 2017, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with TB – one million of those were children under fifteen years old – and it caused 1.6 million deaths. TB, a treatable and curable disease, places its heaviest burden on the world’s most poor and vulnerable communities.

This year, global political leaders committed to ending TB, driven by the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in New York with the UN General Assembly approving the first-ever Political Declaration on the Fight against Tuberculosis.

That declaration outlines that heads of state and governments “recognise the various socio-cultural barriers to tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment services, especially for those who are vulnerable or in vulnerable situations, and the need to develop integrated, people-centred, community-based and gender-responsive health services based on human rights.”

As José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union, said at a TB Summit in New York earlier this year, “We must establish human rights as the guiding framework for the TB response 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.”

With world leaders recognising TB as a global threat, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calling for an end to TB by 2030, and the WHO End TB Strategy in place, it is time to act and ensure targets are met to end the emergency on TB.

The 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health, to be held next year in Hyderabad, India – the country with the highest burden of TB in the world – will lead discussions around the theme Ending the Emergency: Science, Leadership, Action, focusing on what is needed to ensure commitments to ending TB, reducing tobacco use and improving lung health, become action, and that life saving targets are met.

The theme will build on conversations developed at the 49th Union World Conference, where the theme Declaring our Rights: Social and Political Solutions highlighted that eliminating TB and achieving the health-related SDGs require a coordinated public health response driven by the human rights of each individual.

The 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health will be held in Hyderabad, India from 30 October – 2 November 2019.