17 July 2012 - Geneva - As 15 Southern African heads of state prepare to sign the Declaration on TB in the Mining Sector in Maputo, Mozambique, on 18 August, leaders from the government, scientific and private sectors will gather in Washington DC next week poised to convert political momentum into action.
Their aims at AIDS 2012 will be to draw delegates’ attention to the issue - miners in Southern Africa have some of the highest rates of tuberculosis (TB)/HIV in the world - and get the ball rolling on a comprehensive response, including the development of a regional action plan to implement the Southern African Development Community (SADC) declaration.
A satellite session on the evening of Tuesday, 24 July will present an overview of the major challenges and opportunities. While Africa is the only region not on track to reach the Millennium Development Goals for TB, an effective regional response to TB in mines is seen as a pathfinder to turning the tide of the TB epidemic across the continent.
Three members of the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board have been the driving force behind efforts to tackle TB in the mining industry: Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health of South Africa, Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, Vice-Chair of the Global Fund Board and former Minister of Health of Lesotho and Mr Benedict Xaba, Minister of Health of Swaziland.
The three ministers raised the issue to the SADC agenda in November 2011. This was followed in March 2012 by a SADC stakeholders meeting in Johannesburg at which representatives from governments, trade unions, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and donors provided their input to the declaration on TB in the mining sector in preparation for signature by SADC heads of state. The formidable trio has spurred regional efforts to engage companies, unions and ministries of labour, health, natural resources, mines, justice and finance in the fight against TB.
At the satellite session ministerial champions will be joined by speakers from the event organizers - the International Organization for Migration, SADC and the Stop TB Partnership - as well as the Aurum Institute and the World Bank. A former miner and MDR-TB survivor and a filmmaker will provide personal insights into the issue of TB and mining. Together they will explore approaches to building new partnerships to address the co-epidemic, examine the economic and business case for investing in TB and driving innovation to reach miners, their families and communities with TB care.
In related news, next week the Stop TB Partnership initiative TB REACH will launch a call for proposals for its third wave of grants. For this wave applicants will be encouraged to propose innovative approaches to finding TB among miners and other specifically targeted vulnerable groups: children, people living with HIV, migrants and incarcerated persons.
TB REACH is a pathfinder in reaching the 3 million people who fail to access high-quality TB treatment each year. The initiative funds innovative projects that result in early and increased detection of TB cases and ensure timely treatment. It has so far funded 75 projects in 36 countries with the goal of finding and treating 140 000 people whose TB would otherwise have gone undetected.