17 July 2017 - Ottawa, Canada - The Stop TB Partnership launched a new Vulnerable and Underserved Populations Brief on Indigenous Peoples, which will act as a guide for a range of key stakeholders including UN Agencies and local and global health workers, in order to improve Tuberculosis (TB) prevention, treatment and care for Indigenous Peoples.

The brief is broken into six sections and profiles the existing information about TB prevalence among Indigenous Peoples. It also highlights the structural and sociocultural barriers to diagnosis and treatment, as well as outlines the data gaps and indigenous perceptions of health. As the brief points out, the pervasive lack of data about Indigenous Peoples concerning health and other key development indicators, hinders an adequate response to these challenges. As such, the brief concludes with offering examples of strategies and interventions that work for and with Indigenous Peoples and outlines recommendations on a joint way forward.

The brief was launched at the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group Meeting last week in Ottawa, Canada which was an opportunity to review and share promising practices that highlight progress towards achieving global HIV, TB and Hepatitis C targets in Indigenous communities.

The meeting, led by the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN), brought together international and domestic stakeholders and Indigenous leaders representing over 14 countries.

There are approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples who face a number of issues caused by displacement, dispossession, loss of livelihood, systematic racism and abuse, and lack of recognition. There is also a lack of appropriate health programs, particularly in primary health care services compounded by an inability to access health insurance. Data that is available shows extreme poverty and severe health disparities including TB. Universally, Indigenous Peoples experience higher TB burdens than their non-indigenous counterparts.

The Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH initiative has prioritized service delivery in this key population. In India, a grant was provided to Asha Kalp to engage members of the Saharia tribe to provide last-mile, community based TB screening, test and treatment services. This approach addressed the barriers this population faces in accessing services (far distances, discrimination, distinct language, etc) proved highly successful - doubling the number of people started on TB treatment. Several other TB REACH-supported projects have worked with other indigenous populations in Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia and Namibia.

The Canadian Minister of Health, Jane Philpott applauded the leadership and dedication of the people and organizations working to drive down the prevalence of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C in Indigenous communities, "through culturally safe and innovative approaches to prevention, detection and treatments... they are making a difference, and I have seen first-hand some of the tremendous successes that have been achieved."

The full brief can be viewed here.