On 8 May 2023, chants of ‘Yes we can end TB’ were heard coming out of the meeting room at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It was probably the first time any group of people had brought such a fierce energy and passion to what is usually a mundane UN system meeting. But this was no ordinary meeting: this was the UN Multi-stakeholder hearing on TB. The global TB community was united in what they were asking for and ensured the voices of TB survivors were amplified as a central component within the hearing.

UN Headquarters building, New York. Sahera Ramzan / 2023

The UN Multi-stakeholder hearing on TB brought together people affected by TB, civil society, academics, health professionals, private sector, UN agencies and parliamentarians to contribute views on priorities to accelerate progress to ending TB, highlighting experiences of affected communities and best practice in healthcare systems and community services. The purpose of the hearing was to create a common knowledge-base among Member States and stakeholders to inform science-driven decision-making by the General Assembly. This was in preparation for the UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB, due to take place in September this year. The evidence presented at the hearing will help to inform the Political Declaration that will be adopted at the HLM in September.

The strength of the TB hearing was the prominent role of TB survivors sharing their experiences as part of the presentation of evidence. TB survivors from across the globe gave heartfelt accounts of their very personal stories of being affected by TB, the impact it had on them and their families and communities, and what needs to happen to stop this horrible disease destroying other lives. The first call was for greater priority of TB within health agendas and the political will and investment to end TB. TB survivors were asking for better processes and technologies to diagnose TB quicker and more effectively, shorter doses of drugs and an effective TB vaccine. There were also calls for civil society and affected communities to be equal decision-makers alongside governments and policy makers in the fight against TB. The TB survivors’ stories were central in the debate on what action governments and Member States need to take to end the TB epidemic. 

TB hearing, Trusteeship Council inside the UN. Sahera Ramzan / 2023

The stories from those with experience of TB also complemented the official StopTB Partnership and TB community ‘key asks for the HLM’ document. The document was prepared to support Member States and those involved in the negotiations in developing the Political Declaration to be adopted at the TB HLM in September. The outline of the key asks includes:

  1. Reaching all people affected by TB with the appropriate diagnostic testing, treatment and care. These tools should be based on the most up to date evidence and science, as per international guidelines.
  2. Ensure all country level TB responses are equitable, inclusive, gender-sensitive, rights-based and people-centred.
  3. Accelerate the research, development, roll-out, and access to new TB vaccines, diagnostics, drugs, and other essential new tools. These tools should be targeted to those most in need.
  4. Invest the funds necessary to end TB.
  5. Prioritise TB within primary health care services and systems designed to respond to pandemics. 
  6. Ensure accountable leadership at global, regional and national levels with regular reporting to the UN. 

The UN HLM in September will be a crucial moment for political leaders, to make commitments that will directly affect people with TB. At the HLM, global leaders will adopt a Political Declaration that will hopefully accelerate progress to ending TB. In preparation for the HLM, civil society, academics, healthcare workers and policy makers are working together to increase momentum on the action needed to end TB, educating parliamentarians and decision-makers on the solutions. As we said back on World TB Day in March, 2023 is an important year for the TB community. The collective action across countries to press governments to commit to take action on TB and show up for the HLM in September is paramount to saving lives.

To get involved with the fight to #EndTB, check out our campaign guide and action materials for suggestions and guidance for taking action ahead of the UN High-Level meeting.