Human Rights

Declaration of the Rights of People Affected by TB

On Monday, 13 May 2019, the Stop TB Partnership, together with TB People (a global network of people affected by TB), as well as NGOs and community delegations launched the Declaration of the Rights of People Affected by TB in Geneva, Switzerland.

The launch of this Declaration marks a major milestone in recognising the urgent need to adopt a human rights-based approach to TB, to fund human rights-based interventions that overcome barriers to universal access to TB diagnosis, prevention, treatment, care and support services – and to put people affected by TB at the centre of the TB response.

The Declaration itself aims to empower people affected by TB so they may know and claim their human rights.

The following are principles for a human rights-based approach to TB:

  • People (and affected communities) are placed at the centre, as equal partners, driving health policy, providing the individual and groups with the tools to participate and claim specific rights
  • The most marginalised, at risk and vulnerable people/groups are identified, informed and empowered to access TB prevention, treatment and care
  • Dignity is assured for patients and those affected
  • Socio-economic determinants of TB are addressed
  • Human rights implications of TB policy, legislation and programming are addressed
  • Institutional constraints and capacity gaps that prevent individuals and groups from fulfilling their rights related to TB are overcome
  • There is an integrated and multisectoral response to TB, making human rights an integral dimension in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of TB-related policies and programmes
  • Accountability tools are provided for governments, the international community and civil society to monitor the progress of all stakeholders in realising the right to health
  • A platform is provided for documenting and sharing best practices, supporting advocacy and social mobilisation around human rights relevant to TB.

(Source: www.stoptb.org)  

You can read the full Declaration here.

Minister of Health visits TB HIV Care’s Drop-in Centre in eThekwini

Submitted by: Mfezi Mcingana (Key Populations Programme Manager)

TB HIV Care’s Drop-in Centre in eThekwini provides support, healthcare services and treatment to sex workers within our community.

Over the years we have worked hard to ensure that the centre is a safe space for sex workers, where their needs are met and their voices are heard. On the 10th of January 2019, we were able to allow sex workers the chance to voice their fears and daily challenges to a delegation of government representatives.

In attendance were the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Deputy Minister of the South African Police Services (SAPS), Bongani Mkongi, KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, CEO of SANAC, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, police and Department of Health representatives, civil society and the sex worker community. Aiming to eliminate violence against women in general and sex workers in particular, this dialogue had our centre filled to capacity with sex workers who had come to engage with the government and SAPS about their grievances.

The pain and suffering of the community was visible as they took full advantage of the opportunity provided to voice their fears and discuss the hardships that they face on a daily basis (at times as a result of police brutality).

In his address, Dr Motsoaledi highlighted that in eThekwini, the Department of Health is working closely with TB HIV Care, Global Fund and PEPFAR to provide services to the sex worker community, noting that “they are not only providing additional services through mobiles, but are also assisting the department to improve the services that we provide in public clinics.”

He told the audience that “we are testing a fair number of sex workers, but are still not reaching everyone”. He also reiterated that those individuals that are testing negative and are being offered PrEP, are not accepting the service even though they know it will prevent the transmission of HIV.

He highlighted the fact that of all those individuals that test positive, only 55% are on ARVs.  He went on to say that ARVs are “good for the health of people living with HIV and one can enjoy a long healthy life if one continues the medication. However, we also know that those that take their medication are virally suppressed and will not transmit the virus to others.” Dr Motsoaledi went on to say that “it means that we have to work harder to test for HIV and STIs and screening for TB.  Everyone gets access to contraceptives and when one tests positive they are placed on treatment immediately. Secondly, it means consistent use of condoms and if offered, use of PrEP for the duration of the practice of risky sexual behaviour.” The Minister of Health therefore humbly requested that sex workers encourage their colleagues in eThekwini and elsewhere to get tested regularly.

The Minister of Health (MOH) acknowledged that sex workers experience much stigma and discrimination, both at the hands of health workers and some members of SAPS. The Deputy Minister of SAPS and the MEC are working together to ensure that sex workers are not abused by the system.  He encouraged sex workers to report any form of abuse.

In his conclusion, the MOH spoke about drug use. He stated that he understands that many sex workers use drugs to cope with their work and working conditions. However, this increases the chances of violence as well as HIV transmission and forgetting to take medication like ARVs and PrEP. In addition, some sex workers also inject drugs and we know that sharing of needles is the cause of transmission of both HIV and hepatitis. He asked that    “you don’t share needles if you are injecting drugs – rather come to TB HIV Care and request needles and ensure that used needles are disposed of safely, as this can be another major challenge if they are left lying around on the ground. I am sure that colleagues from TB HIV Care will say more about how to deal with these issues safely.”

Massive congratulations to everyone involved!

A plan for Human Rights and Health: Multi-stakeholder meeting maps the way forward

What do human rights have to do with health? If you think about it, quite a lot. Many reasons people don’t access care are a result of human rights violations. These can be anything from a policeman breaking the needle of someone who injects drugs thereby putting them at risk of blood-borne diseases, to someone not wanting to attend a clinic appointment for fear of losing their job. Denying someone health care is itself a violation of a human right.

This was the reason behind a multi-stakeholder meeting held on the 21 and 22 November in Johannesburg. Nearly 100 delegates from civil society organisations around the country gathered to discuss the data on human rights violations and to formulate the steps to generating a national plan that can address them. Completing this task is a critical part of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022.

TB HIV Care was highly visible at the meeting. CEO, Prof Harry Hausler, presented a case study of how human rights violations impact people who inject drugs, with particular reference to the closing of our needle and syringe programme in eThekwini.

Anna Versfeld and Christian Tshimbalanga, independent consultants working with TB HIV Care, presented the findings of the research they have been doing into the barriers people experience when accessing TB services.

It was an intense two days hearing about how much work we still have to do to address a variety of stigma and structural barriers. We look forward to a plan that will move us towards ensuring that no one is left behind, and that health is accessible to all.