Stop TB Partnership

The 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Cape Town

01 December 2015 - In the first week of December 2015, the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health met in Cape Town. In light of the fact that TB is the number one cause of death in South Africa, and killed 1,5 million people worldwide last year, this event provided impetus for civil society to lobby global leaders for more investment in TB programmes and in TB research and development.

Global TB Caucus, a network of international parliamentarians committed to the fight against TB and co-chaired by South African Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, met in Cape Town in the days leading up to the conference - from 28 to 30 November. A group of 44 parliamentarians visited Pollsmoor, Brooklyn Chest Hospital and Site B clinic in Khayelitsha to view the TB programmes at each site in order to inform their discussions on how they can lobby their governments for increased investment in TB control. The support that TB/HIV Care provides at each site was praised, including the TB screening and testing at Pollsmoor which has led to the doubling of TB case-finding at the correctional centre, the educare support provided by TB/HIV Care at Brooklyn Chest Hospital to ensure children under five receive educational stimulation, and the community-based treatment adherence support provided by TB/HIV Care community care workers at Site B, Khayelitsha.

At the World Conference on Lung Health itself, civil society was represented for the first time in a unique community space called the 'Imbizo’. Intended as a space accessible to all where communities involved in the fight for lung health could come together for discussion, support, learning and inspiration. The Imbizo is a vibrant space, which allowed community members and activists to attend some scientific sessions, including one coordinated by David Mametja (Chief Director, TB Control and Management, National the Department of Health) and Harry Hausler (CEO, TB/HIV Care) on ‘Partnerships between government, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and civil society to end TB and HIV in vulnerable populations in South Africa’. This session was co-chaired by Lucica Ditiu (Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership) and Mark Dybul (Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria) and reviewed progress on Global Fund supported projects to reach TB key populations, including miners, peri-mining communities, inmates in correctional services and people with drug-resistant TB. TB Alliance facilitated the painting of a mural including messages of support for the fight against TB in children, a National Health Laboratory Health Service van with a GeneXpert and a TB/HIV Care X-Ray truck were on site to provide TB screening, an indoor soccer pitch helped spread Kick TB/HIV's messaging and sessions and workshops were organised around a variety of topics. The Imbizo, with the tagline 'Your space, my space and our space', is a collaborative effort organised by a local community committee and convened by TB/HIV Care, as the lead local co-ordinating organisation.

On the 3rd of December, TB/HIV Care joined other civil society partners in a united march of 1500 people to rally support for increased investment to end TB, particularly in research and development of new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. After meeting in Keizergracht Street, the marchers sang and danced their way to the Cape Town International Conference Centre, where a memorandum was handed over to the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, as chair of the Stop TB Partnership.

Through the Imbizo space, the march and the lobbying of international parliamentarians during the Global TB Caucus visit, civil society presented a strong and largely united voice. During a session organised on the last day of the conference, which focused on key populations 'speaking out', medical student, Zoey Sifumba, ex-inmate, Karabo Rafube, Chair of the Global Coalition of TB Activists, Blessi Kumar, and others spoke about their experiences of contracting TB. This was a powerful session for those present and pointed to a still greater need for more inclusion of those actually affected by TB within both the conference space and the voice of civil society.