Addressing the needs of key, vulnerable and the most underserved populations - essential to End TB

3-5 April, 2017 - Bangkok, Thailand - The Stop TB Partnership, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and APCASO, together with partners, collaborated to develop the Framework for TB Key and Vulnerable Populations to address the lack of data and programs for key and vulnerable populations in TB. Participants discussed specific issues faced by TB key and vulnerable populations, gaps in data and the lack of understanding of the epidemic in these populations.

The Framework was designed to help TB implementers and communities to identify their specific key and vulnerable populations, ascertain the size and burden of TB in these groups and plan adequate TB services. It will be instrumental in achieving the goals set out by the Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020 and further achieving the End TB strategy targets.

"Data makes policy changes possible. It is important to have such data for program budgeting and implementation purpose. This data framework should be utilized to save people's lives," said Ketho Angami, President, ARK Foundation.

"The Key Populations Data Framework has helped me learn a lot about collecting information regarding populations badly affected by TB. It also helped me understand the importance of influencing and shaping researches get what communities want addressed as well as ensuring no unnecessary harm is caused," stated Maura Elaripe, TB Activist.

Participants to the meeting included representatives from key and vulnerable communities, people affected by TB, civil society, National TB Programs, academics, lawyers, legal experts, the World Health Organization, the Global Fund, UNAIDS and other technical experts. Addressing the issues key and vulnerable populations face is essential in order to tackle the TB epidemic as a whole and a critical component of the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Plan.

Key populations are different from country to country, and include - for example - people with increased exposure to TB due to where they live or work, such as prisoners or miners, people with limited access to quality TB services, such as poor people, refugees or children, people at greater risk due to biological or behavioral factors, such as people who suffer from a disease which affects their immune system or with nutritional problems.

"To meet any of the END TB, Global Plan or SDG goals we need to have a new approach and way of thinking. One that takes into account the needs of every single person affected by TB, starting with the most underserved populations," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership, "Generating quality data and knowledge on these vulnerable population and their needs is absolutely critical to achieving this."

"Nuanced data frameworks are needed to support nuanced analysis and policy- and program-development for TB key and vulnerable populations," said RD Marte, Executive Director, APCASO. "APCASO welcomes the Stop TB Partnership’s efforts to develop such a framework. The framework is useful as to how far it is able to serve the needs of TB key and vulnerable populations; and this is something self-determined by key populations themselves. I therefore look forward to the tool being developed and finalized with the meaningful input and validation of TB community and civil society networks."

"Understanding national and local TB epidemics (who, where, why) is critical to making the strides necessary to ending TB. This includes the identification, prioritization and measurement of populations who are both at highest risk of TB and/or are underserved, and importantly addressing their needs. The Data Action Framework is a significant contribution that raises needed awareness within the TB community for doing just that," said Charalampos (Babis) Sismandis, WHO.

"Decision-makers must first understand that business as usual is no longer acceptable; a paradigm shift is needed. This includes the integration of key populations into all aspects of TB programming. This cannot be done without the collection and use of accurate data. Government decision-makers, in particular, must also understand that focusing programmatic efforts on TB key populations - including through the collection and use of disaggregated data - is not only good practice, it is required to meet their obligation under the right to health," stated Brian Citro of the University of Chicago International Human Rights Clinic.

"The development of an Action Framework for TB key populations is a welcome step and initiative by the Stop TB Partnership and other partners. By intensifying our efforts to reach populations that are more vulnerable, underserved or at risk of infection and illness related to TB, we are putting into practice a rights-based approach which is a much needed shift to help us save the many lives that are at stake. To do this we need to collect accurate data in a way that treats all with dignity. This action framework provides that guidance and countries should make use of if we intent to live up to the targets we have set in our Global Plan to End TB," said Allan Maleche, Executive Director, KELIN.

Stop TB is working to ensure that this tool will be rolled out in several countries over the coming year.