Stop TB Partnership

A human rights-based approach to TB must be accessible to all


10 August, Mombasa, Kenya - Human rights advocates, judges, TB survivors, medical practitioners, public health experts and technical partners met in Mombasa, Kenya on 9 and 10 August to make an overall assessment of the progress made under the Nairobi Strategy and strategize around next steps. The meeting comes two years after the Stop TB Partnership, together with KELIN and Chicago Law School drafted the Nairobi Strategy of the human rights-based approach to TB.

The principal outcome of the meeting was the agreement to begin prioritizing human rights interventions under the Nairobi Strategy, including drafting a Declaration on the Rights of People Affected by TB, and costing these activities, ensuring the human rights and advocacy community is ready to take these forward at every opportunity, moving human rights in TB from being a passing phrase to a central theme.

In the time since the release of the Nairobi Strategy, there have been a number of significant achievements, including the TB, Human Rights and the Law Case Compendium, the completion of several TB Legal Environment Assessments, the Judicial Handbook on TB, Human Rights and the Law, the completion of sensitization of training for law enforcement and health care workers, as well as the advancement of stronger more strategic and engaged TB communities through community monitoring for social accountability and advocacy networks at local, regional and global level.

Justice Mumbi Ngugi stated that "TB is a brutal affront to human dignity." Dr Jen Furin from Harvard Medical School noted that "the TB response has systematically ignored TB rights and we see the impact of that today. It has been frustrating and saddening. But things are beginning to change." Dr Viorel Soltan from Stop TB Partnership also noted that "‘it is time to take stock of the road we have walked, but to also understand the momentous nature of TB and human rights journey we have ahead of us, mainly and walking hand in hand, with those communities who are currently being left behind."

Also, discourse relating to ‘a human rights-based approach to TB’ has become mainstream. But much more work is needed to operationalize this perspective further. As noted by Dean Lewis, "human rights and people-centered care have moved to the mainstream. But we must operationalize these at the grassroots level. At the moment, human rights in TB is a concept for those who are "rich enough to afford them."

The key components of the Nairobi Strategy include:

  1. Empowerment and support of networks of people with TB, TB survivors and broader civil society at global, regional and national levels;
  2. Enhancement of judiciary and legal communities’ awareness and understanding of a human rights-based approach to TB; and
  3. Expansion of legislators’ and policymakers’ capacity to incorporate human rights-based approaches to TB into laws and policies.

A human rights-based approach to TB articulates and upholds the rights of people affected by TB, including the rights to life, health, non-discrimination, privacy, informed consent, housing, food, and water. The approach focuses on the social and economic determinants of the disease, addressing stigma, discrimination, and environmental conditions. It articulates the domestic and international legal obligations of governments and non-state actors to ensure proper quality testing and treatment for TB is available and accessible without discrimination. The approach also aims to create an enabling legal environment for the research and development of new, more effective TB drugs and diagnostics, and to lower the prices of existing drugs, including new medicines for multidrug-resistant TB, and advanced diagnostics.