18 June 2016 - Bratislava, Slovakia - The Stop TB Partnership, with the support of USAID and in collaboration with RESULTS UK and TB Europe Coalition today hosted the first regional workshop for people directly affected by TB. The workshop brings together people with experience of TB from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to leverage their expertise in order to become advocates who can be deeply engaged in the fight in their countries to end TB.
This three day workshop follows on from the first Stop TB Partnership global meeting of people directly affected by TB which was held in November 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. With the support of USAID and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, it brought together 16 people who discussed and documented the barriers, challenges and triumphs experienced through their TB journeys.
Europe has the fasted growing HIV epidemic and the highest rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the world. It is home to 15 of the world’s 27 countries with high burden of MDR-TB with 14 of these countries in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. There are a plethora of issues facing the region in the TB response, including a growing MDR-TB epidemic, the need to reform and decentralize the health system, for patient centered approaches, for social protection measures, the integration of TB and HIV services, and the need for a sustainable transition to domestic funding so that national governments assume the responsibility and ownership of the response.
Dr Lucica Ditiu, the Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership and Dr Mark Dybul, the Executive Director of the Global Fund jointly opened the workshop.
"I come from this region and it is not very common here to have communities, activists, and people affected by TB seriously engaged in designing programs, implementing and monitoring the work. I am happy that we start with Europe for this series of regional workshops to empower and embrace all our colleagues and friends, and put communities at the centre of our work. I hope that together we will raise the voice to ensure that funding - domestic or from donors - goes to support those closer to the people suffering because of TB, small grassroots organizations and platforms first and foremost. It is a great day today," said Dr Ditiu.
"Strong community action is central to building resilient and sustainable systems for health," said Dr. Dybul. "Civil society, including key and vulnerable populations, has and will continue to play an active role at every level of Global Fund operations, from policy development to implementation. Partnerships with affected communities have allowed us to reach more people, with greater impact, and make us all more accountable. It is great to see this movement in the TB community growing stronger, particularly in a region disproportionately affected by TB. This first regional workshop is further evidence of the roles that communities affected by TB can play. We are thrilled to work with the Stop TB Partnership in making sure that people affected by TB are at the center of our work."
The workshop brings together people with experience of TB to provide learning, communication skill building, information sharing and networking opportunities and at the end of the workshop, on 20 June, they will launch their regional TB network that unites and supports people with experience of TB across the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.
"For years we have been hearing that unlike HIV, TB is a curable disease, which explains why we have a vibrant community of people living with HIV and literally no community of people affected by TB. Now it is time for us to prove that this assumption is wrong, and that people with experience of TB can organize themselves into a strong community. It is time for us to join the global fight against TB. Yes, it is going to be a long journey, but, as a wise man said, every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. With the support of our friends and partners, we are making this important step today," said Timur Abdullaev, Community Representative to the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board and an experienced activist who initiated the establishment of the network.
Throughout 2016 and 2017, the Stop TB Partnership will be hosting a series of regional meetings of people directly affected by TB to support and enhance their engagement in the TB response at regional, national and local levels recognizing that inclusive leadership, increasing political will and funding can lead to an improved response to the TB epidemic across the world.
The full list of workshop participants can be found here.