A voice for the poor and marginalized - Jorge Sampaio honoured for political advocacy on TB

15 April 2013 - Geneva - The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Stop TB Partnership today honoured Dr Jorge Sampaio, the former UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis, for his work to raise the profile of tuberculosis (TB) on the international agenda.

"TB mainly affects the poor and marginalized, making it easy to ignore," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, at a ceremony in Geneva. "Dr Sampaio was asked to address this problem and he has done so with remarkable dedication. He has been an envoy of the first order for TB. On behalf of the WHO and millions of TB patients around the world, let me honour Dr Sampaio for his work over the past six years."

Dr Sampaio, a former President of Portugal, was appointed Special Envoy in 2006. He has since carried out an ambitious political outreach programme. He called on the leaders of G8 countries to prioritize investment in TB and brought together ministers, heads of development agencies and other health leaders at a series of fora and discussions on TB.

Dr Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, commended Dr Sampaio for an approach to public health that is grounded in social justice. "Dr Sampaio has focused on those who are marginalized, those who are affected by stigma and those who don’t have access to services," he said. "He has pushed the agenda on TB and TB/HIV and his leadership has put these issues back on the map."

During his tenure as Special Envoy, Dr Sampaio became a strong advocate for people suffering from the TB/HIV co-epidemic. In 2009, he convened the TB/HIV Global Leaders’ Forum which was attended by the UN Secretary-General and Dr Chan, among others. In 2010 at the International AIDS Society Meeting in Vienna, Dr Sampaio presided over the signing of a landmark memorandum of understanding between the Stop TB Partnership and UNAIDS. At the 2011 High-Level Meeting on AIDS at UN Headquarters in New York, Dr Sampaio called for political leadership and concrete action to save a million lives by 2015 by treating and preventing TB among people living with HIV.

Dr Amy Bloom, the interim Chair of the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board, presented Dr Sampaio with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the Partnership’s more than 1000 partners. "Ensuring that TB is on the global agenda is a continuous challenge," she said. "Dr Sampaio’s efforts have elevated the profile of TB among heads of states and organizations and, most importantly, convinced them to take action."

Responding, Dr Sampaio said that he felt honoured to be part of the TB family and witness major progress in the global fight against TB. But he said that the world must step up the battle against TB. "It’s no good saying that we did our best, we need to do what is necessary," he said. "We need to build on current achievements, make them sustainable and tackle the remaining challenges. TB is still too often a death sentence, but it doesn’t have to be this way when the disease is curable and preventable."

Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the Stop TB Department, and Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, also thanked Dr Sampaio for his leadership over the past six years.

"I admired President Sampaio’s approach to health from a human rights perspective and I am convinced that he will keep promoting our cause against TB," said Dr Raviglione.

"Dr Sampaio’s work has been an inspiration to me," said Dr Ditiu. "His dedication to improving the health of people in some of the world’s poorest communities served as a constant reminder that the place where you are born should never dictate whether you should live or die."