Law Enforcement Officers and Healthcare Workers Set Out Plans to Guarantee Access to TB Services for Key Populations

15 June 2017 - Mombasa, Kenya - A workshop on TB, human rights and the law for law enforcement officers and healthcare workers was held in Mombasa, Kenya this month. Over 100 participants from 12 African countries and the Ukraine came together over three days to discuss the challenges community members face in accessing TB services, both in prison settings and in the general population. TB survivors shared their person testimonies to highlight the challenges they have faced. The workshop which was organized by KELIN also had members of parliament from Kenya and Nigeria.

Participants came from diverse backgrounds including police officers, prison wardens and prison policy officers, former prisoners, doctors, lawyers, healthcare workers and people affected with TB.

Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir, Member of Parliament for the Mvita Constituency in Kenya talked about the need for this type of workshop because it provided an opportunity for critical discussions on the removal of legal barriers that affected key and vulnerable populations' access to TB treatment.

"Looking at TB and HIV through a human rights lens provides the foundation for regional partnerships and increased advocacy against legal barriers that impede access to healthcare for key populations. I was particularly impressed by the action plans developed by the workshop participants, which point to their willingness to prioritize access to TB services for key populations. There is need for follow-up and accountability in guaranteeing the implementation of the action plans. The link between HIV and TB as they affect key populations cannot be ignored as a human rights issue. We need to remain committed to the cause of removing legal barriers," said Allan Maleche, Executive Director, KELIN

Participants also met with sex workers and drug users to talk about TB, given that they are often faced with issues surrounding violence and their safety and saw firsthand, what the impact of human rights abuses, living in close quarters, and raids by police have on their lives and ability to access health services.

"Tina, pictured below was a drug user. She was part of a treatment program but relapsed during her pregnancy. Her baby is now five months old and Tina has been drug free for five months. Her baby is tiny and when I carried her she weighed nothing. She had only had milk once that morning and we met them at 13:00 in the afternoon. Tina had heard of TB but thankfully she has not had it," said Colleen Daniels, Human Rights, Gender & TB/HIV Advisor for the Stop TB Partnership.

Participants also visited the Shimo La Tewa maximum security prison which is currently 50% over capacity. A screening program which the prison has implemented has led to a decline in the number of cases of TB: rates have reduced over the past few years from 176 to 12.

The forum was also used as an opportunity to implement and advance The Nairobi Strategy which advocates for a human rights-based approach to TB intervention across the world, through various means including sensitization of professionals and service providers.