Stop TB Partnership, African TB Programs and partners: shoulder to shoulder in the fight against TB

8-12 July 2017, Accra, Ghana - The Stop TB Partnership along with key partners convened, supported and participated in a number of events in and around the Union African Region Conference on TB, all aimed towards helping countries in Africa to move faster towards ending TB.

Stop TB Partnership and the Global Coalition of TB Activists (GCTA) in collaboration with Afro Global Alliance and Stop TB Partnership Kenya hosted a 3-day workshop for the Anglophone Africa region to engage, empower and mobilize TB community advocates. We share with you a short video taken during the workshop here, highlighting the voices of the regional TB community. The workshop brought people together from 11 African countries who shared personal stories, strengthened their communication and advocacy skills and documented the societal and systemic barriers they faced, transforming them into concrete advocacy priorities for action at national, regional and global levels. These include community led, rights-based, gender transformative, and integrated services, social protection and stigma reduction. To engage in strategic and coordinated advocacy and to turn these priorities into action, participants decided to form a regional TB community network. An interim committee was identified with a 3-month mandate to refine its vision and mission, as well as its structure, constitution, registration, membership base, and the appointment of an official steering committee. This is part of a global effort by Stop TB Partnership to support the desire and demand from communities to engage in regional level advocacy. Our partners include TBpeople, ACT Asia Pacific and in August 2017 Stop TB Partnership and GCTA will support the community movement in the Latin America and Caribbean region to progress its advocacy agenda.

"It has become critical to have a regional network of TB community advocates in Africa. As community advocates we have access to our communities. We understand their challenges. And so together with our medical colleagues we can ensure that we reach and care for all with TB " said Austin Obiefuna, President Afro Global Alliance.

"The longer we see people with TB as mere recipients of care and not valuable partners, the paradigm shift that is needed to end TB will never take place," said Suvanand Sahu, Deputy Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership.

The Africa launch of the third edition of the Out of Step report, developed by the Stop TB Partnership and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), happened at a plenary event in the conference of the Union Africa region. The report is a survey of policies and practices on TB prevention, testing and treatment in 29 high burden countries including 9 countries from the African region.

"It is very useful for us to have access to such a report as it gives us the opportunity to see where we are with respect to policies. It’s a ‘one-stop shop’ for all of us to do our assessment," said Dr Frank Bonsu, Head of the National TB Control Programme, Ghana Heath Service, who officiated the launch.

Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Ethiopia and partners working in Africa were part of a well-attended Global Drug Facility (GDF) workshop on Accelerated access to new TB medicines, regimens and diagnostics. During the workshop, participants had an opportunity to understand how GDF has been supporting countries globally and particularly in Africa to accelerate the introduction and scale-up of new TB tools. Participants learnt about systematic quantification and early warning system (QuanTB) and seamless transitioning to new TB medicine formulations for children. Zimbabwe presented results of regional coordination efforts relating to cross-border transfer of medicines supported by GDF which averted stock-outs and wastage of child TB medicines in four countries saving more than US$3.3 million. Swaziland discussed the challenges faced when procuring TB medicines during rapid scale-up of services resulting in increasing demand and the related lessons learned on reliable data collection and validation. And finally, Ethiopia discussed the use of systematic early warning system (QuanTB) to help prevent wastage of over USD1 million worth of second-line TB drugs. Participants also witnessed a live demonstration of the free downloadable digital early warning system (EWS) for TB medicines, QuanTB tool, and had an opportunity to learn through practical exercises.

The Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH symposium showcased the innovative work of TB REACH grantees from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and The Gambia. It provided a unique opportunity for the nearly 100 attendees from many African countries to learn more about the TB REACH initiative and some of its grantees’ success stories and innovations. Finding the estimated missing 4.3 million people with TB worldwide is a key priority for successfully ending TB. The insightful discussion that followed the presentations got attendees to think further about how they could test out innovative approaches for improved case detection in their respective local settings in the future. The TB REACH grantees shared their experiences on reaching and testing vulnerable groups and children for improved TB case detection. In Southern Ethiopia for example, health extension workers successfully improved access to TB diagnosis and treatment for women and children. In a Nigerian state, TB case notification was increased through the engagement of leaders in nomadic pastoralist communities. In The Gambia and in Kenya, diagnosis and management of childhood TB significantly improved following contact tracing and provision of IPT. In South Africa, innovative algorithms for TB active case finding were used for screening and testing inmates. Besides improved TB case detection, the presentations also highlighted how TB REACH funding has been instrumental in achieving sustainability and scale-up through new funding sources and in impacting national TB policies and priorities.

Stop TB Partnership participated in a panel on the new Global Fund policy on sustainability, transition and counterpart funding. The panel highlighted the implications of this policy for countries in the region, potential challenges and opportunities. The Stop TB Partnership also participated in the meeting of Parliamentarians of African countries. The parliamentarians discussed the current situation of TB and the opportunity of the forthcoming UN HLM in 2018, committed to make efforts for participation of their respective heads of state in the HLM and developed a statement on priorities that they would pursue - these include advocacy for updated policies in countries and scale-up to the Global Plan to End TB 90-(90)-90 targets.

The Accra conference was a great opportunity for Stop TB Partnership to work with and support countries and partners in Africa to change status-quo and to move faster towards ending TB in the continent. Stop TB Partnership congratulates Ghana for successfully hosting this event.